Longtime Ethiopian Diplomat Resigns in Protest of Country's Genocide

Resignation comes as pro-regime Dems scramble to respond to crisis

Ethiopian soldiers in Tigray / Getty Images
March 10, 2021

Ethiopia's deputy ambassador to the United States resigned on Wednesday, citing his country's continued genocide in the Tigray region.

Longtime diplomat Berhane Kidanemariam announced his resignation from the post of deputy chief of mission for Ethiopia in Washington, D.C., due to Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed's genocidal practices in Tigray. Kidanemariam said that his country has pursued a "dark" and "disturbing" route by silencing political differences through military and extrajudicial force.

"I have loved serving as a diplomat for my country but I cannot do so at the expense of my values, and certainly not at the expense of my people," Kidanemariam said. "There is a cost to acting on one's principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them. I resign from my post in protest of the genocidal war in Tigray, and in protest of all the repression and destruction the government is inflicting on the rest of Ethiopia."

The resignation comes as United States lawmakers face pressure from multiple sides to take action in the crisis. Activists and advocates for Tigray have accused the Biden administration of taking a blinkered approach to the human rights crisis. Congressional Republicans told the Washington Free Beacon in February that they were demanding a swift humanitarian response from the administration, which has so far condemned the violence in name but not in deed.

Republicans are also finding limits to bipartisan support for their effort. Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.), a powerful member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, touts a longtime relationship with the Ethiopian government. Bass praised Abiy, Ethiopia's reigning strongman, for winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and invited him to her California district in 2018. Kidanemariam's resignation comes as Bass prepares a resolution, a draft of which was obtained by the Free Beacon, that neglects to condemn the Tigray crisis as a genocide.

The U.S. House is "encouraged by the reform measures undertaken by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since 2018, including efforts to promote human rights, privatize the economy, repeal restrictions on freedoms of expression, open space for opposition parties to operate ahead of elections, and resolve regional conflicts," the resolution reads.

In response to an inquiry, a spokesman for Bass directed the Free Beacon to a statement issued by her office Wednesday afternoon.

"There has been an escalation of ethnic violence in the country where extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, looting of property, mass executions, and impeded humanitarian access in the Tigray region has continued," Bass said in the statement. "I have met with Ethiopian government officials and strongly urged an immediate cessation of hostilities and an independent investigation by the international community. [Tigray People's Liberation Front] forces and the Ethiopian Military Forces must cease the violence and commit to a national dialogue."

She added that the final resolution she is planning on introducing will condemn the violence in the region along with "the excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces against peaceful protesters." Her statement did not mention Abiy by name.

Since November 2020, Ethiopia's ruling party has conducted a series of policies that watchdogs say may violate international law and even amount to war crimes. Reports of rape, arbitrary imprisonment, and mass killings are rampant throughout the Tigray region. The full scope of the atrocities, however, remain unknown due to a widespread embargo on communications and media coverage in the region. The discord started when local leadership in Tigray refused to join Abiy's ruling coalition and engaged in widespread protest of the government's policies.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the ongoing genocidal actions in Tigray during a Wednesday hearing with the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"We are seeing very credible reports of human rights atrocities and atrocities that are ongoing," Blinken told the committee. "The situation in Tigray is unacceptable and has to change."

Blinken conceded that ethnic cleansing is occurring in parts of western Tigray and told members that he has spoken to Abiy on multiple occasions. He did not, however, directly answer questions on whether peacekeeping forces in Tigray are needed. He also affirmed his support of Abiy as an "inspiring leader" for Ethiopia, a sentiment with which Rep. Bass agreed.

The White House did not return a request for comment.