President Biden is taking further steps to respond to the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia. This conflict has sparked one of the worst humanitarian and human rights crises in the world, with over 5 million people requiring humanitarian assistance and nearly one million living in famine-like conditions.
The parties to the conflict – including Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and Amhara regional forces – have committed human rights abuses against civilians. There have been widespread reports of armed actors committing brutal acts of murder, rape, and other sexual violence against civilian populations. The UN Population Fund has estimated that tens of thousands of women and girls in northern Ethiopia will need medical, mental health, psychosocial, and legal services to begin to rebuild their lives following conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.
With allies, partners, and international organizations, the United States calls on all parties to end hostilities, to allow and facilitate unimpeded humanitarian access, to ensure accountability for human rights abuses, and to enter into an inclusive dialogue to preserve the unity of the Ethiopian state. The United Stated is also calling on the Ethiopian government and the TPLF to begin discussions without preconditions to achieve a negotiated ceasefire and a political resolution of the conflict. In remarks to the UN Security Council in August, the UN Secretary-General was clear: “All parties must recognize a simple truth: there is no military solution.”
On September 17, 2021 President Biden signed an Executive Order (E.O.) establishing a new sanctions regime that gives the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), working with the U.S. Department of State (State), the authority to hold accountable those in the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government, the TPLF, and the Amhara regional government who are responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict, obstructing humanitarian access, or preventing a ceasefire. Treasury is prepared to take action under this E.O. to impose targeted sanctions against those responsible for the ongoing crisis.
While imposing sanctions under this E.O., the United States will take measures to mitigate unintended effects on the people of Ethiopia and the wider region. The United States will seek to ensure personal remittances to non-sanctioned persons, humanitarian assistance to at-risk populations, and longer-term assistance programs and commercial activities that address basic human needs continue to flow to Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region through legitimate and transparent channels.
This Executive Order follows sanctions and visa restrictions the United States has already imposed. In August 2021, the Department of Treasury sanctioned General Filipos Woldeyohannes, the Chief of Staff of the Eritrean Defense Forces, pursuant to E.O. 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. In May 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act imposing visa restrictions on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray.
The United States has imposed defense trade restrictions for exports to Ethiopia amid the ongoing conflict and reported human rights abuses. The United States urges other countries to implement similar measures to stop the flow of weapons to any parties to the conflict and support a negotiated ceasefire.
The actions of those involved in the conflict will determine whether the U.S. government imposes sanctions. The United States is prepared to impose sanctions if there is not progress toward a resolution of the conflict. If there is progress, the United States is prepared to work with the international community to mobilize critical assistance for Ethiopia to recover from this conflict, reorganize its significant debt, and revitalize its economy.