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Inviting Foreign Countries to Commit Mass Atrocities in Tigray: How Ethiopia is abusing its Sovereignty

Inviting Foreign Countries to Commit Mass Atrocities in Tigray: How Ethiopia is abusing its Sovereignty


Desta, Asayehgn - Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Economic Development



As stated in the international humanitarian and human rights law, the United States applying “sovereignty as responsibility” is attempting to apply economic and political sanction against Ethiopian Government because the Ethiopian National Federal Forces in collaborators with other foreign governments has committed crimes of mass atrocities related to genocide, starvation, looting and the raping of underage girls and women in Tigray, Ethiopia. 

Though the Abiy regime of Ethiopia has voluntarily forfeited its sovereignty by inviting foreign countries to invade its citizens, now it has not only started denouncing the United States for meddling in the internal affairs of Ethiopia but it also anchoring on his power to galvanize his supporters and stage massive demonstration against the United States of America. The central question of this paper is: Can the sanctions imposed by the United States of America on Ethiopia for waging war of annihilation against the people of Tigray amount to the violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty?  

A brief review of studies 

Established in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, state sovereignty was specifically established to give every state an exclusive rights within its domestic jurisdiction. Being equal to one another and having the sole authority, the Westphalia state sovereignty was codified to prohibit the intervention of one state on the domestic affairs of another state (Tan, Oct 9, 2017).

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 Over the thirty and half years, the Westphalia sovereignty remained relevant from the principle of non-interference. Nonetheless, as it gave unlimited authority to dictators, it faced challenge from human rights advocates. Thus, without infringing a country’s sovereignty, the 1648 Westphalia state sovereignty was amended in 1948 to make humanistic by incorporate statements that states be given the responsibilities with obligation to hold their citizens’ rights to be free from mass atrocity crimes and human rights abuses.

Furthermore, under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) of 2005, states were made to know that they could relinquish their sovereignty provided they are found to commit or allow mass atrocities related to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against their citizens (Etzioni, March 10, 2016, and Glanville, 2011). 

Thereby, at the World Summit in 2005, the United Nations General Assembly made it crystal clear that states have the right and the duty to intervene to meet internationally recognized standards (Glanville, 2011) when they fully established other states have atrociously failed to conduct the human rights of their citizens.  

To summarize, according to the 1648 Westphalian accord, states were given the exclusive rights within their domestic jurisdiction to calm down various religious types of conflicts. Stated differently, states were made to be exclusively prohibited from intervening into the domestic affairs of other states. However, following World War II, states were further accorded additional responsibility to protect (R2P) the welfare of their citizens from mass atrocity crimes.

Provided states fail to uphold their responsibility to protect the human rights of its citizens, the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005 further endorsed that other states have the obligation to intervene and protect human rights of the then aggressed citizens. Clarifying the dilution of that might exist in the concept of sovereignty as a control, it was ascertained to incorporate responsibility in both internal functions and external duties (Evans and Sahnoun et al (2001). 

Analysis and Conclusion

Ethiopia being a member of the League of Nations and the United Nations, it needs to be appreciated for being one of signatory nations that it agreed to protect the welfare of its citizens from internal mass atrocity and see that it agreed to practice sovereignty as responsibility.

Nonetheless, after signing voluntarily that sovereignty cannot be used as carte blanche for states to committee all forms of atrocities (Tan, Oct 9, 2017), it is a disgrace for Ethiopia to see that the Abiy’s regime invited and collaborated with other nations such as, the well-known dictator, Isaias Afework of Eritrea, Somalia’s armed forces, and United Arab Emirates’ drones to wag a full-scale war to annihilate the citizens of Tigray.

Given the various horrible atrocities committed in Tigray, the Abiy regime doesn’t either have the moral nor the legal grounds to act as the guardian of Ethiopia’s sovereignty (Ashenafi (May, 21, 2021). In addition, the Abiy regime should be ashamed to accuse the United States for imposing economic and political sanctions against Ethiopia. After all, the sanctions that United States is intending to impose on Ethiopia is nothing but is in line with the international obligation of the 2005 that each member nation signed to fulfill case of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. 

In a violation of the territorial boundaries of regional states established in the

1995 Ethiopian constitution, it was very awful that the Abiy regime organized the Amhara militia forces and the genocidal fano forces to cross their boundaries, enter Tigray and expropriate the Tigrayans from their respective territories and made about 71,000 flee as refugees to the Sudan. Therefore, it is a high time that the international community collaborate together to disparage Ethiopia from abusing sovereignty and attempting to use it as a dreadful formula for the extermination of Tigreans (Security and Justice for Tigreans (SJTE) in Ethiopia, June 7, 2021).  

The conclusion that could be reached from the above analysis that the Abiy regime has voluntarily forfeited sovereignty when it invited foreign countries to invade its own citizens. Moreover, now, the Abiy regime is abusing sovereignty against the United States for its decision to impose economic and political sanctions against Ethiopia in order to partially protect the Tigrayan victims.  Therefore, given the war crimes being committed in Tigray are unparalleled in human history, the international community has the duty and responsibility to prosecute Abiy as the perpetrator of “heinous international crimes” (See also, SJTE, June 7, 2021).  


Ashenafi , F. (March 21, 2021). “Hiding behind the Sovereignty skirt: Ethiopia’s

Foreign Ministry Statement.” Sovereignty-skirt.htm  

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Desta, A. (Feb. 13, 2021). “Reversing History: Eritrea’s form of colonialism progressing in Tigray (Ethiopia) in the 21st Century. Tigrai online.  

Evans, G, Sahnoun et al (2011). “The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty.” Ottawa: International Development Research Centre. 

Etzioni.A (March 10, 2016). “Defining Down Sovereignty: The Rights and Responsibilities of Nations.” Ethics & International Affairs. 

Glanville, L. (2011). “The Antecedents of “Sovereignty as Responsibility.”  European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 17, No. 2.  

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Securities and Justice for Tigreans in Ethiopia (June 7, 2021). “His Excellency Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.” 

Tan, S. (Oct 9, 2017). “The Uses and Abuses of Sovereignty.” Foreign Policy.

World Summit Outcome (September 15, 2005). “Draft resolution refereed to High –level Plenary Meeting on the General Assembly, 59th Session. 

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