US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday pressed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on accountability for atrocities committed by all parties throughout the yearslong conflict in northern Ethiopia.
The secretary of state and the prime minister met for roughly two and a half hours in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa during Blinken’s first visit to the nation as the top US diplomat.
His trip comes months after the two major parties to the conflict – the Abiy government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – reached a “permanent cessation of hostilities agreement” aimed at ending the bloody dispute that caused a humanitarian catastrophe and led to a significant rift in the relations between the United States and Ethiopian governments.
A top State Department official said prior to the trip, which also includes a visit to Niger, that the US is looking to “refashion our engagement with Ethiopia” following the “earthshattering” conflict.
“To put that relationship in a forward trajectory, we will continue to need steps by Ethiopia to help break the cycle of ethnic political violence that has set the country back for so many decades, including most acutely in this recent conflict,” Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said on a call with reporters last week.
In their meeting Wednesday, Blinken and Abiy “discussed the significant progress in implementing” the cessation of hostilities agreement, including “improved humanitarian access and restoration of basic services,” according to a US State Department readout.
The two “discussed the importance of accountability for the atrocities perpetrated by all parties during the conflict” and “the need for an inclusive and comprehensive process of transitional justice,” the readout said.
CNN reported extensively on mass killings and acts of sexual violence that were committed during the course of the conflict, some of which bear the hallmarks of genocide. Blinken said in late 2021 that the US would make a determination about whether the crimes committed in northern Ethiopia constitute genocide “once we get all the analysis that goes into looking at the facts and looking at the law,” but a public determination has not yet been made.
A joint report released in late 2021 by the Office of UN Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission found that all parties to the conflict had “committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The Biden administration enacted some punitive measures in response to the war. In November 2021, they imposed sanctions on Eritrea’s military and its sole political party for their involvement in the conflict. At the start of 2022, Ethiopia lost access to a lucrative US trade program called the African Growth and Opportunity Act due to “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”