Ethiopia: Is the TPLF or Addis Ababa winning the PR war in the US?

Ethiopia: Is the TPLF or Addis Ababa winning the PR war in the US?

By Loza Seleshie

Ethiopia’s government has been facing mounting pressure amidst internal conflict in Tigray and regional tensions around its Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD). In an effort to smooth over relations with the US – a once powerful ally – Addis Ababa has hired law firm Holland & Knight to assist with lobbying actions in Washington. What strategy is Abiy Ahmed’s government taking?

Regional disagreements come first, as Ethiopia continues to inch towards completion of the dam – on the Blue Nile River – that it began filling in July 2020. GERD has been a primary source of contention with neighbouring Sudan and Egypt for more than a decade, with no lasting solution in hand.

But, because of strong continental support in its favour, Ethiopia has preferred to keep negotiations at the AU level.

Egypt, on the other hand, called for “involving an international party in the Renaissance Dam negotiations” in 2019.

Egypt internationalises its problems

American and Egyptian relations may have been strained following Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s initial rise to power, but that soon changed during the Trump era, with the former US President having famously referred to Sisi as his “favourite dictator”.

Following the first filling of the GERD reservoir in July last year, the US suspended between $100m and $130m in foreign assistance to Ethiopia in August 2020. It was under these circumstances that the Ethiopian embassy in the US signed a three-month contract for $130,000 with lobbying firm Barnes & Thornburg in September 2020.

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