Trying to Whitewash Susan Rice’s Record in the Horn of Africa 

July 2, 2020

Trying to Whitewash Susan Rice’s Record in the Horn of Africa 

We are seriously concerned with Professor Tom Campbell’s misrepresentation of the facts relative to the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict of 1998-2000 and its eventual resolution in his The Orange County Register article “A look back at Susan Rice’s Eritrea-Ethiopia diplomacy.” The facts show that Susan Rice played a critical role in exacerbating the conflict by siding with the Ethiopian regime and thus emboldening it to wreak havoc on thousands of human lives in both Eritrea and Ethiopia. Additionally, her bias against Eritrea allowed the war to rage on for two years until the defeated Ethiopian army was dragged to the negotiation table to sign a Comprehensive Peace Agreement in December of 2000. In accordance with the comprehensive agreement a border commission was created which, in April of 2002 rendered its final and binding decision affirmed Eritrea’s sovereignty over Badma. To this day, the party that Susan Rice tried to prop up continues to occupy Badma and other sovereign Eritrean territory in defiance to the current Ethiopian central government. This is Ambassador Rice’s legacy with regards to the “border” conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Here are some additional issues we have with the Dr. Campbell’s assessment of this history: 

  • Contrary to his assertion, the US-Rwanda plan of June 1998 was indisputably a fiasco. In fact that’s why President Clinton appointed Anthony Lake, his former National Security Advisor, to take over the negotiation from Susan Rice. She neither built alliances nor bring peace. The ceasefire only came two years later (June 18, 2000) and after a loss of more than 150,000 lives (over 135,000 Ethiopians and 19,000 Eritreans).
  • Professor Campbell stated: “…America could have looked away. We did in the 1994 Rwandan genocide…”  It is imperative to note that the US administration through its  representatives did look away. Despite professing to play a fair and objective role in the efforts of bringing peace, their silence was deafening. The obvious lack of impartiality emboldened the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) dominated Ethiopian government  to refuse to implement the final and binding delimitation and demarcation unanimous decisions of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC). 
  • We don’t know what Professor Campbell was trying to say when he asserted the following:Some irritants lingered from the 1936-1993 Ethiopian dominance over Eritrea.” First in 1936, Ethiopia was hardly in any position to dominate; from 1935-1941 it was itself under Italian occupation. Second, from 1941-1952, Eritrea was under British Military Administration and Ethiopia had no chance to dominate Eritrea. 
  • Professor Campbell says: “As Ethiopia fell under the control of a Communist government in 1974, an Eritrean independence movement grew in popular support.“ For the record, by 1974, the Eritrean independence movement was already thirteen years old. In fact the war in Eritrea was a critically important factor that contributed to the downfall of the imperial regime and resultant military coup of 1974. 
  • Contrary to his revisionist narrative, Eritrea was not given the chance to separate from Ethiopia by (means of a mere) agreement; it achieved its independence through a protracted armed struggle that decisively defeated an army dubbed as the strongest in Black Africa. It did not need the blessing of the Ethiopian regime or any other power for that matter. It is a travesty to revise the heroic and victorious 30-year struggle of the Eritrean people.  Independence was not handed to Eritrea on a silver platter. 
  • Professor Campbell claimed that Ethiopia had “invested millions of dollars building modern port facilities on the Red Sea.“ Ethiopian investment, if any, compared to what it plundered from and destroyed in Eritrea, was peanuts. As well-informed as Professor Campbell is, we are certain he is aware that Ethiopia bombed the port city of Massawa to the ground. Why he didn’t take this into consideration is beyond us.
  • Professor Campbell asserted that “The border was never precisely defined.” That was not the case; the Eritrea-Ethiopia border was among the “precisely defined” colonial borders in Africa. It was not an ill-defined border, but the Ethiopian government’s desire to reoccupy Eritrea under the pretext of a border dispute that led to Ethiopia’s declaration of war in May of 1998. At the same time, Ethiopia did not only move “an administrative office into a disputed border town”, it killed eight Eritrean officers that came for a talk and illegally evicted Eritrean farmers from their ancestral lands. 
  • Contrary to Professor Campbell’s claim Susan Rice did not spend “her entire time in that administration trying to end the Eritrean-Ethiopian war”; she devoted most of her time in support of Ethiopia. In fact, as her Wikileaks cables as USUN Ambassador during the first Obama term show, she came back eight years later to fight the war against Eritrea alongside her friend the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi when she orchestrated and choreographed a complete fabrication against Eritrea to impose United Nations sanctions. All of these failings show an epitome of abusive political power–not the “strengths an American leader should possess.”  
  • The Horn of Africa movements that fought against the 1974-1991 Communist regime of Ethiopia were not driven by their anti-Communist ideology. The Tigreans were driven by their desire to wrestle power from their Amhara Abyssinian cousins in northern Ethiopia. Contrary to Professor Campbell’s assertion, Susan Rice’s protege, Meles Zenawi,  admitted to the BBC that his TPLF group, as it was about to take over power in Ethiopia in 1991, was modelled after Enver Hoxha’s Communist Albania. The Oromos were fighting to get their right to self-determination from an Ethiopian state that considered them as second-third-class citizens. The Eritreans on the other hand started their resistance against the pro-west Emperor Haile Selassie driven by their determination to regain their right to self-determination and decolonization, a right that was denied to them at the end of WW II but granted to all former European colonies.

Attempts to whitewash Susan Rice’s misdeeds were not limited to her adventures in the Horn of Africa. However, for the moment, we will leave the Rwanda genocide and Susan Rice’s role in the loss of nearly a million innocent Rwandese and how she looked the other way when over five million Congolese lives perished.

The National Council of Eritrean Americans (NCEA)

2154 24th Pl NE, Washington, D.C. 20018 e-mail:

Posted in: Press Release/Statement