U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against those prolonging conflict in northern Ethiopia, adding pressure on parties to end the civil war.
The Department of Treasury can now go after several targets, including those in the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments as well as in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, who continue to fuel the conflict instead of negotiating a cease-fire, according to a statement from the White House.
READ: Ethiopian Eurobond Yield at Record as Biden Authorizes Sanctions
The fighting started in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military incursion into the Tigray province after accusing forces loyal to the TPLF of attacking a federal military base in the region to try and steal weapons.
Forces from neighboring Eritrea were reported to have crossed the border to back Abiy’s troops. The fighting has caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 5 million people needing assistance and nearly one million facing famine.
“These sanctions are not directed at the people of Ethiopia or Eritrea, but rather the individuals and entities perpetrating the violence and driving a humanitarian disaster,” according to the statement. “We will continue to work with our partners to address basic needs of at-risk populations in Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa.”
As a long-time strategic ally against terrorism, Ethiopia was surprised by the U.S. action, which Abiy said overlooked humanitarian concerns, according to a statement on Twitter. The African nation expects that the U.S. would similarly stand by it against the “terrorist organization,” he said.
“The American people and the rest of the Western world are being misguided by reports, narratives and data distortions of global entities many believe were driven to help impoverished countries like mine, yet have in the past months portrayed victims as oppressors and oppressors as victims through partisan narratives and bankrolled networks,” Abiy said.
“Ethiopia will not succumb to consequences of pressure engineered by disgruntled individuals for whom consolidating power is more important than the well-being of millions,” he said.