If we don’t see immediate progress, we will act on sanctions, Biden administration reads riot act to warriors in Ethiopia

The United States said on Monday morning that it was ready to act on the sanctions President Joseph R. Biden Jr. authorized on Friday if those prolonging the conflict in northern Ethiopia do not take immediate actions to achieve peace.

Bryan Hunt, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Africa and the Sudans, Bureau of African Affairs, and Erik Woodhouse, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counter Threat Finance and Sanctions Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State briefed reporters via teleconference.

Both officials outlined steps that should be taken immediately by all sides on the ground to achieve peace, including unconditional negotiations and unhindered humanitarian access into the Tigray region, warning that “if we do not see such progress immediately, we will take more actions.”

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerkii is welcomed by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed upon his arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, Ethiopia, Saturday, July 14, 2018. (AP Photo Mulugeta Ayene) 
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerkii is welcomed by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed upon his arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, Ethiopia, Saturday, July 14, 2018. (AP Photo Mulugeta Ayene)

Asked by Today News Africa‘s Simon Ateba whether there was a deadline for the sanctions to kick in, Hunt and Woodhouse said the Biden administration expects actions on the ground immediately.

The officials asserted that while the people in the region are starving and in need of humanitarian access, 90 percent of humanitarian assistance has not been allowed in, mainly because the Ethiopian government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has been preventing trucks from going in.

The officials said they are also concerned that the TPLF has also expanded the war into Amhara and Afar regions and preventing humanitarian access also there, warning that also is counterproductive to achieve peace.

The United States Department of the Treasury on Friday provided more clarity to President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Executive Order authorizing sanctions on all those standing in the way of peace in northern Ethiopia, detailing who is affected and who is not.

The Treasury Department said President Biden’s Executive Order (E.O.), “Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons with Respect to the Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia,” was in response to the growing conflict and humanitarian and human rights crisis in northern Ethiopia, which has threatened the peace, security, and stability of Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region.

The Executive Order declares a national emergency with respect to the crisis and provides the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, with authorities to impose a range of targeted sanctions on persons determined, among other things, to be responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that expand or extend the ongoing crisis or obstruct a ceasefire or peace process in northern Ethiopia or commit serious human rights abuse. 

“Together, with allies, partners, and international organizations, the United States calls on all parties to enter into negotiations to end the conflict. This conflict has created a widespread humanitarian crisis and threatens the stability of Ethiopia,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo.  “The Treasury Department is prepared to employ the range of targeted actions to hold accountable anyone contributing to the deepening of this crisis. The negotiated end of the conflict will set the stage for the United States and international partners to reengage in our efforts to support Ethiopia’s reforms to boost economic growth and job creation.” 

The Executive Order authorizes targeting of actors contributing to the crisis in northern Ethiopia and is not directed at the people of Ethiopia, Eritrea, or the greater Horn of Africa region. 

The Treasury Department said it remains committed to ensuring that U.S. sanctions do not limit the ability of civilians located in Ethiopia and the region to receive humanitarian support from the international community. 

“As part of this commitment, concurrent with the issuance of the new E.O., Treasury issued three general licenses (GLs), which authorize official activities of certain international organizations and other international entities, certain transactions in support of nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs) activities, and certain transactions related to the exportation or reexportation of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical items. 

“Treasury is committed to facilitating the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Ethiopia.  Treasury will continue to work with financial institutions, international organizations, and the NGO community to ease the flow of necessary resources to the people in need across Ethiopia and throughout the greater Horn of Africa region,” said Deputy Secretary Adeyemo.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also issued six Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which provide additional clarity and guidance regarding the non-application of OFAC’s 50 Percent Rule to the property and interests in property of persons blocked pursuant to the new Executive Order, as well as additional information on the activities authorized by Ethiopia general licenses.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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