Opinion: Special Envoy Feltman is not the right man for the Horn of Africa

A career diplomat and a man who is controversial. Is not the sort of figure you send to fix or amend issues. An outspoken and ideological man like Jeffrey Feltman will only configure the conflicts and the situations at hand for the benefits of American interests. That is what he has done in his position most of his life.

Except for his stint under Ban Ki-Moon in United Nations and prolonged under Antonio Guterres. He has been a career diplomat across the Northern Africa and Middle East. His role in Lebanon and elsewhere is where his most noteworthy from.

Feltman is a person that take sides. When he actively takes sides in divided landscapes as a senior career diplomat. What will he do as Horn of Africa Envoy? I doubt he will wind beneficial middle-ground or emphasis on the common grounds between the parties. He is afraid of the Iranian and possible Turkish involvement in the region. As he also seeks to promote and secure the American interests first.

That means we know that this Special Envoy will be partial and be affected by his allegiance. He will not come with a clean slate or be working accordingly to the problems at hand. This man will not solve the issues or come with clear mediation. No, this man will further U.S. interests. These words are taken from Karim Makdisi who teaches at the American University in Beirut. Who assessed Feltman’s role in the area as an ambassador.

When you are known for things like this and going into the Horn of Africa at his very moment. The person should be less questionable. Joe Biden appointed him since his been a person trusted in the Obama Administration and has a diplomatic record spanning over years. This is a token recognition of that. However, his still a man peculiar fella who suddenly going into a mine-field.

A person who believes in “non-interfering” but interfering to avoid “enemies” interfering. Therefore, that split-personality trait doesn’t make much sense either. Except he lives in a cold-war paradigm with Iran. Which clearly could be shifted to anywhere in the world.

Feltman will pick sides whether it is in Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia or Sudan. This man will also pin-point and look after the U.S. interests. That is why this man isn’t just a random a dude travelling and taking a safari. No, this man will not be the best diplomat. A man who could easily ask for a military government in Lebanon (wikileaks leaked cables proved that). He could easily assess a situation and confess to the sustainability now. Just to buy peace and the comfort of having a U.S. ally on the throne.

As a Special Envoy he is supposed to mediate in Tigray conflict, which has been going on since 4th November 2020. There he will by default have to intervene with the Tripartite Alliance and get vouched by them for talks. However, Abiy haven’t been in favour of any real talks or outsiders looking into it. As that would devastate his image and tarnish his “reformist” mind.

The Special Envoy is also supposed to mediate in the Al-Fashaqa triangle. Where the Sudanese have sent more forces and secured their border points. While the Ethiopian with their Tripartite Alliance have entered in here as an escalation of the Tigray conflict. Abiy have held small talks with Al-Burhan, but nothing sincere. It seems likely that the Special Envoy needs a miracle and I wonder, if he would booster the new ally in Khartoum or try to appease Addis Ababa. Hard to know, but with the likes of Feltman will have to be calm and figure out what matters here.

The last piece of trouble ahead is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Nile dialogue between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The three has held negotiations and talks, but haven’t landed on a agreement to settle the shared water. This here is both a talk of sovereign use of water sources and how that will affect the up-stream nations. This is why the Special Envoy have to dwindle into colonial agreements and newer ones as well. While being able to play ball with Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa. His career task alone to finalize and be able to please all parties. Someone has to give, but we can wonder who will do that.

The GERD negotiations and talks alone will be more hostile. As the Ethiopian claims in the Al-Fashaqa region/triangle and their skirmishes inside Sudan. The relations has soured over this. That will not help the Special Envoy before even entering. As well, as his intervention or possible mandate hasn’t been granted by any of the parties involved. Who hasn’t a favourable view of American touches here. As the previous administration was taken Egypt’s side and this feeling might linger on.

Therefore, the likes of a Special Envoy in the first place is a noble idea of Biden. Nevertheless, taking a career diplomat should been seen as a positive. However, the history of Feltman and his manners. He can be seen as a spinster for American interests over the needs to salvage peace. This man isn’t the one who should have been sent. Maybe, Biden should have tried to get someone appointed through the African Union or boost IGAD itself. Even though these mechanisms are weak, but joint ventures with United Nations has helped in the past. Therefore, if Biden and UNSC had intervened with a UN-AU prospects into both Tigray, GERD and Ethiopian-Sudan tensions. The possible outcome could have been better and properly monitored by the International community.

However, a Feltman will only serve Washington D.C. and their needs. While being a token American interfering for these interests. He will not be there to be a peacemaker. Just like Abiy isn’t a man of peace either by any stretch of imagination. Al-Burhan and the Sovereign Council is also military men. When there is very civilians and more soldiers on the ground. There is little stopping more conflict. There is a need for mediation and talks between the leaders who orders the battalions.

Nevertheless, Feltman isn’t the man and just by the mere history. It is a flawed enterprise to send him now. Especially, when I cannot see or heard any of the parties have really asked of this of late. The need for local solutions is clear. There is a need for salvaging hope in the midst of the conflict. Feltman isn’t the man to interfere here.

He is getting a false start, as he comes as a forced surprise on all stakeholders and governments. It is not like he has been vetted or accepted by anyone else than Biden and Blinken. They have handpicked him and vouched for him. Now, he has to drop his credentials at all the mentioned capitals and after that pick a leaf for possible talks about the advanced weaponry and silence them as well.

I wouldn’t want to be in Feltman’s shoes at this point in time. First his not the man for the job. No matter about his long career. The reputation he has follows him and makes him questionable at best. Secondly, he has a mandate from Washington D.C. but not from the any of the sovereign nations his supposed to interfere in. Third, the U.S. isn’t that favourable or a “neutral” in these conflicts. Therefore, he has throw a curveball to be able to wing it here.

Feltman is in battles where he cannot win and I cannot see it coming Unless, there is a sudden miracle or a moment of nostalgia … where they changes their stances and gives way. However, that happens in movies, but not in the real world. Peace.