The Security and Human Rights Dilemma: An Inquiry into U.S.-Ethiopia Diplomatic Relations 1991-2012

Ayalew, Seife | January 1, 2018

In the post-1991 U.S.-Ethiopian diplomacy, the use of foreign policy as a framework to advance the cause of human rights has faced several challenges rooted in the way human rights is defined and the intricate interests vested in the U.S. foreign policy establishment. This article elucidates the limitations and challenges of diplomatic machinery as a framework for advancing the cause of human rights. First, human rights in the U.S. foreign policy machine have been given a marginal or subordinate place in diplomatic priorities. Second, the Government of Ethiopia’s (GOE) resistance and tough diplomatic measures and Ethiopia’s strategic importance to the U.S. have alienated or narrowed the space for active human rights diplomacy in Ethiopia, making it a highly politicized undertaking rife with claims and counterclaims of sovereignty, national interest, power politics, and manipulation. However, effective advancement of human rights using the foreign policy framework is limited not only to the choice of U.S. foreign policy makers/diplomats, but also equally important is the domestic political context. Finally, this article will show how GOE has evaded active human rights diplomacy, but done so in a way that serves the overall U.S. strategic foreign policy.