Ethiopia will lose access to a lucrative US trade program due to human rights violations unless it take significant steps toward ending the ongoing conflict and alleviating the humanitarian crisis by the start of 2022, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
President Joe Biden has determined that Ethiopia is out of compliance with the eligibility requirements of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) “for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” one of the senior administration officials said. The Ethiopian government must take “urgent action” by January 1 in order to remain in the program, which grants eligible sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the US market for thousands of products.
The Biden administration is also preparing to issue sanctions under an executive order signed by Biden in September authorizing broad sanctions against those involved in perpetrating the ongoing conflict, according to the officials. The moves come as the conflict in northern Ethiopia nears its grim one-year milestone and millions of Ethiopians risk starvation. There have been repeated calls from the United States and the international community for the parties to the conflict, including the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, to end hostilities.
“We are communicating to the Ethiopian government that there is still time to avoid or reverse these actions if they take urgent action,” another senior administration official said. “We are urging the government of Ethiopia to take urgent steps by insuring an end to all gross human rights violations, granting unhindered access to international human rights monitors, removing barriers to humanitarian operations,” they continued. “We are urging all parties to halt military operations that are causing widespread loss of life and threats to civilians and to come to the negotiating table without preconditions.”