Skip to content

Are Colorado’s Ethiopian’s stampeding from the Democratic Party? What’s the deal?

August 4, 2021
 
Ethiopians and Eritreans of all stripes celebrating the removal of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from power and the possibilities of a more united, prosperous countries with peace between them. Aurora High School, July, 2018, 7,00-10,000 in attemdance (R. Prince photo)
Washington’s endgame in Ethiopia remains unclear. Is its goal to limit the emergence of a regional Horn of Africa hegemonic power, whose politics will be more independent of Washington? Whose potential for energizing the entire region are a threat to U.S. interests? To partition Ethiopia in a divide-and-conquer manner that has marked the history of both European colonialism and American post war neo-colonialism? Counter Chinese growing influence in the Horn of Africa? Support Egypt (and Israel) in that country’s irrational fears of the consequences of the completion of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam?
  1. Colorado Ethiopians Stampede from the Democratic Party?

Large numbers of Ethiopians in Colorado are bolting from supporting Democratic candidates to seek their fortune with Republicans. Anecdotally, it is nothing short of a stampede that would effect politics in the state long term. In a state where swing voters often make the difference the tens of thousands or so Coloradans of Ethiopian descent, who tend to vote as a block can make the difference between who gets elected to higher office.

There is a misconception that the community is split down the middle between the supports of the Abiy government in Addis Ababa and those who stand with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. This is the stuff of which fantasies are made. 95% of Ethiopia’s diaspora community in Colorado (and elsewhere) stand with Abiy Ahmed, less than 5% have thrown their lot with the TPLF.

I recall a meeting several years ago between members of the mainstream Ethiopian Community of Colorado in an Aurora Ethiopian restaurant with the state’s Democratic Party leadership. There, the Party leadership heard many versions of “you only show up at election time and then we never hear from you till the next election” Increased focus did follow that produced temporary electoral results.

Much of that good will however has evaporated. Increasingly the Dems are persona non grata in Colorado’s Ethiopian churches, mosques and restaurants given the Biden Administration’s support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s separatist offensive. The brief honeymoon between elements of Colorado’s Democratic Party leadership and key Ethiopian personalities is coming to an abrupt end.

Colorado Ethiopians helped elect Biden nationally and Jason Crow (D – Colorado) to the House in Colorado’s District 6 are now moving in droves into the Republican fold. Not that long ago here in Colorado, the then anti-Trump sentiment among Colorado’s Ethiopian community helped Jason Crow unseat his conservative, Mike Coffman in their contest for the U.S. Congressional seat in Colorado’s District 6. This swing to the Democrats came after then-President Trump urged Egypt to bomb Ethiopia’s Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as the dam nears completion.

The brief honeymoon between Ethiopians-USA and the Biden administration is over. Its policy of increasingly hybrid warfare against Addis Ababa, Colorado Ethiopians are swinging to the far right. If the Coffman-Crow congressional contest were held today, it’s hard to say how it would play out as the support the Democratic Party, and Crow himself, enjoyed is shrinking. In a few states – Colorado, Georgia and Virginia electoral contests are close and Ethiopians, who vote in large blocks can be a critical swing vote.

Certainly a good part of the reason for the shift is a result of the Biden administration’s opportunistic and irrational support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Another factor is the Colorado Democratic Party’s on-again/off again focus on the issues of its Ethiopian immigrant community, the second largest in the state after Latinos. The party courted a few figures in the Community only to essentially dump them for whatever reason not long afterwards leaving bitter feelings.

     2. Washington’s short-sighted support for the TPLF

As with Colorado, so goes the rest of the Ethiopian Community in the United States!

From 1991 to 2018, the TPLF ruled Ethiopia with an iron hand till they were finally politically sidelined and isolated. The post-2018 government headed up by Nobel Prize winner Abiy Ahmed has strong support from much of the Ethiopian population. Ethiopians everywhere, at home and in the diaspera (including all over North America) – celebrated the sidelining of the hated TPLF with massive public displays

Washington’s full-scale offensive against the Ethiopian government has provoked strong negative reactions among Ethiopia’s American citizens, who have alternated between criticism of Republican and Democratic administrations. Concerning Ethiopia, the policies pursued by Washington are bipartisan.

For the moment, these winds are blowing from the right, the far right in fact. Recently the Ethiopian community nationally has formed a lobbying firm, to some degree modeled on the Zionist lobby, AIPAC. The word “on the street” is here in Colorado, such luminaries as Ken Buck, one of the state’s more rightwing members of Congress,are being encouraged to carry the torch and come out publicly in support of the Abiy government. There is even talk in certain circles of contributing to the main Congressional gunslinger and January 6 White House trasher enthusiast, Lauren Boebert.

At the moment, Biden administration policy offers the Ethiopian diaspora virtually nothing given its open hostility to Ethiopia’s current plight. Ethiopian Americans are especially miffed by the Biden administration’s shaping its Ethiopian narrative giving credence to the illusion that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) are the victims, rather than the instigators and perpetrators of their country’s chaos, disunity and separatism.

Taking the lead on its hardening line against the Abiy government are a circle of foreign policy specialists within the Biden Administration. Secretary of State Blinken, National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan plus that coterie of neo-liberal Africanists within the State Department, the ideological offspring of Herman Cohen preferred the previous authoritarian rule combined with neo-liberal economic policies to Abey Ahmed’s somewhat more independent Ethiopian diplomatic path. Somewhere in the background, but still involved former National Security Adviser Susan Rice appears to be the behind-the-scenes stage manager.

Hardly the neutral mediators where it comes to Ethiopia, the Biden administration has encouraged a broad-based misinformation media campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Abiy government. Some examples:

  • Both the government and the American media have engaged in a misinformation campaign against the Ethiopian government not unlike those that preceded the U.S. military offensives in Iran and Libya
  • There are two resolutions in Congress, one in the House, the other in the Senate that weigh heavily in favor of the TPLF
  • It has initiated sanctions against certain personalities in the Ethiopian (and Eritrean) governments; supported calls to indict Prime Minister Abiy before the International Criminal Court (which Washington refuses to participate in); and spearheaded a move within the Horn of Africa to isolate Ethiopia from its neighbors.
  • Three Biden administration representatives, U.S. Senator Chris Coons and (un)retired State Department diplomat Jeffrey Feltman have both gone to Ethiopia, not on fact finding missions as reported, but to essentially dictate policy. More recently US AID Administrator, Samantha Powers did likewise. Powers was a key figure in the 2012 U.S.-led NATO invasion Libya that resulting in the shattering of that country that ignited a decade of North African instability.

Powers was a key figure in the 2012 U.S.-led NATO invasion Libya that resulting in the shattering of that country that ignited a decade of North African instability and one of the main architects of U.S. humanitarian intervention, using humanitarian pretexts as excuses for military intervention. Feltman, something of a hachet man for U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East, since has been named the U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa.

Viewed with deep suspicion for his diplomatic role in Lebanon where previously stationed, Feltman has a reputation of a master of fanning sectarian tensions he is claiming to resolve. His recent comment that Ethiopia’s tensions could make Syria look like child’s play in comparison was viewed as a (not very) veiled threat to the Addis Ababa government to “fall in line” with U.S. policy or suffer the consequences.

There is something odd about this current anti-Ethiopian offensive. From the vantage point of political economy, there is very little difference between the approaches of the disposed TPLF government and that of Abiy. Both follow neo-liberal approaches, encouraging foreign investment and privatization of government assets. Like the TPLF, the Abiy government has shown no signs of leaving the U.S. security umbrella provided by AFRICOM.

It makes one wonder: does Washington prefer allies, tools that it knows like the TPLF, to an Ethiopian administration whose goals and directions are less predictable?

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Sara permalink
    August 5, 2021 3:46 pm

    Georgian Ethiopian-American seconds Colorado’s. We Can’t wait to vote dems out just like we vote them in!

  2. Mennen permalink
    August 7, 2021 12:13 pm

    I am eagerly awaiting the coming election. No democrat will get my vote.

    • August 7, 2021 1:47 pm

      Hello Mennen. I understand your hostility to voting for a Democrat given the Biden Administration’s hostile policy towards the Abiy government which began even before the Biden “Africa team” took power formally and continues until today. As a non-Ethiopian, I deplore, oppose this policy which I assume is the source of your “No democrat will get my vote.” But there is a problem for where I am sitting and it is that the Republican policies, especially during the Trump years in office were equally odious. I don’t think I have to remind you that Trump referred to Africans as living in “shit hole” countries, Equally disturbing was his public encouragement for Egypt to bomb the GERD, the point being that Washington’s policy towards Ethiopia is bipartisan. Meanwhile the Ethiopian diaspora community in the USA lurches from supporting Democrats, to Republicans although neither party, frankly, has offered Ethiopian-Americans much to be thankful for. There must be a better way. Best, Rob P/Denver

      • Tsige permalink
        August 8, 2021 9:18 am

        Ethiopians will be happy to see a split Congress where nothing will be done! It’s not a favor to one or the other.

        • Tsige permalink
          August 8, 2021 9:22 am

          And an enemy that tells you to your face exactly how they feel about you are more predictable than those that pretend to stand on your side, to chant “black lives matter” with you but would not care less about changing a single thing. Democrats have been pretending to stand by African Americans even but even a black president has done nothing for them. I hope African Americans will wake up soon like us Africans! Wake up black people. You are the only ones to change your destiny!

        • August 8, 2021 10:13 am

          Agreed – especially the point about the enemy who tells you to your face and the one who “chants Black Lives Mattter” – I suppose the key question is how to take a position independent of both parties that pushes both of them… In the end the foreign policy is bipartisan… Both parties try to take advantage of the other – without offering Ethiopian friends (or labor, or peace groups or environmental groups) anything. Both parties are cynical when it comes to Ethiopia – foreign policy in general…

  3. Buche permalink
    August 7, 2021 12:39 pm

    This is gonna be my first time to give my vote very happily to fellow Republicans! No more Dems!

  4. Buche permalink
    August 7, 2021 12:59 pm

    This is gonna be my first time to give my vote very happily to fellow Republicans! No more Dems! We Ethiopian-Americans living in Nevada will join all our brothers and sisters in voting Dems OUT! We helped them in and now we’ll escort them out!!

  5. Berhanu permalink
    August 7, 2021 1:08 pm

    An excellently presented and analyzed situation which is based on facts. If Countries do not work together and instead work against each other, no problem will be solved. A simple problem will be more complicated and make the situation worse. The sovereignty of all Countries must also be taken in to consideration.

  6. Buche permalink
    August 7, 2021 1:49 pm

    This is going to be my first time to give my vote to fellow Republicans very happily! We Ethiopian-Americans residing in the great state of Nevada will join all our brothers and sisters from Colorado in voting Dems OUT! We helped them in to hold the office now we will escort them OUT!

  7. Solomon permalink
    August 7, 2021 6:42 pm

    Good explanation of the situation in addis and the sabotage by Democrats

  8. Yonas Tessema permalink
    August 8, 2021 9:16 pm

    I am eagerly awaiting to vote against Democrat in MD where I reside. I was a life long Democrat but now I know that the policy makers as well as the administration are not stand with the truth.

  9. August 9, 2021 2:20 pm

    Dems that I supported as far as I remember absolutely disoriented me by siding with TPLF who attacked the Ethiopian Northern command, slaughtered unsuspecting soldiers, looted weapons, bragged about it on TV and forced the government into a bloody war it never wanted. I live in metro Atlanta where the large Ethiopian American vote helped Biden win Georgia by a slight margin, and flip the two senate seats. I think Dems took us for granted despite their misguided acts against our homeland. There is no way they can count on our votes come the next election.

  10. Redwan Ibrahim permalink
    August 9, 2021 3:02 pm

    Democrats still have a chance to save this savings block if they would ACT now! Condemn the TPLF, remove the sanction against Ethiopia. I just cannot believe that any Democrat who cares for the Ethiopian & Eritrean cimmunity, can be indifferent when Biden sanction Ethiopia and even threatened more sanction. We know the NSA CoS is a Tigrayan who happens to also be the President’s Deputy adviser. Is that why the U.S. policy took a 360 turn against Ethiopia. Nevertheless, Congress can check the executive branch. Our elected official in CO are in a position to do that and it’s now time for action. Personally, I have switched my part affiliation to Independent. I may not vote for a republican but I will not vote Democrat either unless they act. I will gladly throw away my bite to a 3rd party if needed. I will vote my conscious. At this point I am a one issue voter.

  11. Mill permalink
    August 9, 2021 10:48 pm

    Following Donald Trump’s nomenclature I am from the Horn of S… H…. I detest Biden’s and Dem’s policy towards Ethiopia as I do Donald Trump’s and that of the GOP. that he has in his pocket. I see no better of two evils. I am not an Ethiopian American so I cannot vote ether way but even if had the right to vote ft is a catch 22: it is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  12. Daniel permalink
    August 10, 2021 12:18 am

    I prepared and sent this to Karen Bass while I was in Ethiopia. I was obviously outraged

    I SWITCHED!
    Open letter to Karen Bass

    NO! SUSAN RICE

  13. Tjiruneh permalink
    August 10, 2021 10:37 am

    Wrong policy on Ethiopia by the Democratic party driven by few ill informed individuals in the Biden administration need immediate correction. The strong voice of the overwhelming majority of Ethio-American’s should not be ignored by any politician. We will vote for a candidate that stands with Ethiopia and rejects TPLF’s terrorism.

    • Lily permalink
      August 11, 2021 12:38 pm

      I too gladly join the wave from California!! United we stand.

  14. August 11, 2021 12:32 pm

    Why don’t we wear our traditional cloth? It is beautiful and also gives us grace. We have a culture which we can be proud of…. What is missing is love, Unity and real concern. May Almighty God protects all of us. Peace ✌️ Amen 🙏

  15. Gideon M Belete permalink
    August 11, 2021 1:56 pm

    As sad as it is to see Dems not doing the right thing on Ethiopia, I am not a one-issue voter. It is the Ethiopian diaspora’s responsibility to let them (congress) know we disagree and if enough voters do this the Dems WILL listen. The Republicans are trying to limit your vote…wtf!

  16. Yirgu Wolde permalink
    August 12, 2021 5:16 am

    Have been a committed Democrat over the last 30+ years, however due to the irrational US support of The TPLF junta by Susan Rice led US foreign policy(her unwavering commitment to the late Dictator Melese Zenawi & TPLF junta over the last 20+years- refer to her new book) it is impossible for me and many Ethiopian Americans to vote for Democrats in the future. Watch Georgia, VA, MD & CA at the next mid term election in 2022.Forget the excuse,Republican Trump’s statement about blowing up the Dam; it would have never happened or would have been the end of karthoume, Sudan

  17. Fekru permalink
    August 12, 2021 8:08 am

    I think we have to be strategic about the action we take. We are disappointed and angry with the D party! It would not be prudent to simply throw our support behind the R party without having to use it to pressure the D party to change its ways. Given its history, the R party has not been sympathetic to our causes, even though the only senator who stood by us happens to be a Republican. We have to be sure any candidate we support understands our issues well and is willing to represent us once elected. More than the Congress, it is the Biden administration that ignored us, subcontracting the US foreign policy to Susan Rice and her disciples in the State Department.

    • August 12, 2021 8:22 am

      Fekru… personally in agreement and think you raise an important point

  18. Aklilu Tilahun permalink
    August 13, 2021 9:34 am

    The fact of the matter is that both partie republicans and democrats have a very identical stand in their foreign policy affairs towards Ethiopia,which leaves us with no favorable choices. Our focus got to be on making it so clear to both parties particularly democrats to earn our vote rather than taking it for granted. Effective utilization of voting power and conducting a strong lobbying are the two most effective political games in the American politics. It is time for all Ethiopian community members in us, to stand up and do our civic duty. We don’t have to leave a room for other to do our duty.

    • August 13, 2021 10:50 am

      Aklilu Tilahun – Point well made – a few others responding to this entry have said likewise… The Ethiopian Community – like other communities, social movements – needs an approach independent of both parties but that can be applied to both. Veering from one party to the other is, frankly, from my experience, is a dead end. And you are right – while there are slight differences on this or that point, when it comes to foreign policy, both the Democrats and the Republicans are in lockstep with one another and have been for a long time. You are on to something!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: