Biden’s Policies towards the Horn of Africa

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The Horn of Africa is a highly crucial area to superpowers, they tend to compete over it leading to several conflicts. It is a hot spot area where huge conflicts are taking place leading to humanitarian disasters and other several issues. Nonetheless, each state is trying to guarantee the security of its interests in Africa. Therefore, Biden’s policies focus on addressing the area’s main issues and cooperating on greater levels, in order to secure the American access to Africa[1]. Biden came to the presidency the United States of America after huge internal conflicts resulted from discriminative policies adopted by Trump against migrants, non-white, and other different .. in the American society. Additionally, these conflicts coupled with external policies as withdrawal from several main agreements and international cooperation. During this period, China has gained huge influence in the Horn of Africa threatening the American interests in the region[2].

Accordingly, the priority of Biden’s administration was to regain the American influence and credibility as a responsible and a trusted ally to the African countries. To address the policies adopted a one must understand the roots of Biden’s policies in a challenging world through tackling the direction of Democrats and Republicans main foreign policies’ directions. In addition to the relation of the Democrats principles to Biden’s current policies towards the Horn of Africa.

Additionally, tackling foreign policy as the continuation of domestic politics through understanding how Biden uses both polices to serve each other[3]. Moreover, Ethiopia’s conflicts on the American Agenda with the consideration of Tigray war, Sudan armed conflict, and the Grand Renaissance Dam[4]. How the US is trying to deal with each issue and the response determines a lot of facts. Lastly, the US in countering terrorism with the consideration of current security relations with Kenya and the neglection of Somalia[5].

The Roots of Biden’s Policies in a Challenging World

According to the political background of Biden as a Democrat, the policies should be based on a couple of principles. Generally, Democrats tend to focus on expanding the American influence all over the world using several tactics and strategies. They believe that the US should strengthen its ties, depend on its allies, and not taking unilateral decisions unlike the Republicans. Additionally, the priority of diplomacy as one of the most important tools in its foreign policy. Democrats used to stress on cooperation through the international organization which was highly noticed when the first decision Biden took was to resume US membership in the WHO and Paris climate agreement.

The values in the American view are the western values as democratic values, good governance, human rights that included marriage law, gay rights, and death penalty. These values have been used throughout history to serve the American interests in several continents. In addition, they were also used through different methods to intervene in the domestic affairs of the states, methods included aid-cut, economic, political, and diplomatic pressure. Pressure to gain the acceptance of the American administration to have a sustained relations that guarantees the relations with the rest of the international community on both economic and diplomatic levels. Unlike the isolationist policies adopted by Trump’s administration, Biden’s policies are using a sort of interventionist especially after the unfavorable outcomes on the US due to the American isolationism during Trump that helped China to gain influence in the horn of Africa.

Therefore, Biden’s policies towards the Horn of Africa revolves around human rights, democratic values, and restrengthening the relations with its allies. Also, the resume of the US membership in several international organizations has a good outcome on Africa, due to the American fund. [6]However, these policies based on certain values are coupled with conditions to guarantee the American influence over these states especially during this critical time in the region with China’s huge presence. America is being challenged by the Chinese presence; accordingly, Biden’s administration focuses on making these states depend on the US through offering more attractive deals than those of China[7].

 According to basic concepts in foreign policy analysis, small states tend to gain the maximum benefits through the competition between two poles in the international system, not necessarily to be considered as a bipolar system [8].However, since the US is still challenged by the Chinese influence in Africa and the adoption of several programs and projects that guarantees the African belonging to China. The African states may force US to provide more concessions indirectly.

Foreign Policy as the Continuation of Domestic Politics

“If war is the continuation of politics by other means, then, pace Clausewitz, it is certainly also the case that many times foreign policy is simply the continuation of domestic politics by other means” [9]. Accordingly, from this point a one can assess the initiatives took by Biden’s administration, immediately after taking office, towards the African Americans living in the US as a tool to guarantee not only internal stability but also external influence across the African continent[10]. Biden’s campaign to address the issues of African Americans internally called (The Biden Plan for Black America), was one of the main pillars in his electoral campaign. According to this plan, the first initiative was supposed to eliminate the systematic racism that is highly noticeable in the American institutions and decisions against migrants especially during Trump’s era[11]. Particularly after the political upheaval and tensions that were in its peak after the murder of the African American George Floyd, and the riots and the chaos that were at the congress at that time. All of these internal conflicts among the American society were on the verge of making societal divisions which could have the most dangerous effect on the American national security than any other threat.

In the light of the previously mentioned situation and the instable nature of it, Biden’s policies had to focus on the African American migrants even those who are not from African roots. Trying to stabilize the internal conflicts especially when it comes to specific race that has to do with external relations was a very crucial case to be addressed. Also, the reflection of such conflicts internally, and the high racism against specific skin color was about to make the US unfavorable ally anymore to non-white states and started to consider the American administration reusing white supremacy. Definitely, the result of the Republican’s polices against migrants were not an issue during Trump who preferred to isolate and reduce the cost of intervention by stating “America first”. While on the other hand, that is the total opposite to Biden’s administration whose policies tend to focus on strengthening ties with its allies all over the world which require international acceptance based on the domestic acts towards different races and the extent of the American respects towards colored skin citizens. The appointment of Kamala Harris as the first black and first Asian-American as a Vice President, sends a lot of messages to the rest of the world and recently on Friday the 18th of November first women with presidential power transferred for eighty-five minutes[12].

  Biden’s policies towards the Black have addressed six main goals, enhancing the economic situation of the black Americans, reduce the income gap between the white and black, employment plans, supporting small projects through directing specific loans to fund them. Regardless of the huge percentage and the gap between the funds directed to the black compared to the white, but it aimed to reflect a sort of considering them in the society. Additionally, enhancing the rights of the black Americans in providing good education, and the investment in the health sector to reduce the discrimination based on the skin color which was highly significant during COVID-19 pandemic[13]. Lastly, taking necessarily measures to promote fairness among all Americans. Based on the previously mentioned decisions taken by Biden’s administration, Biden has stressed on his commitment towards the horn of Africa according to a couple of principles as mutual respect, support for democratic institutions, in addition to enhancing the peace and security of Africa. Nonetheless, increasing the trade volume between the two sides, promoting the American investments in Africa, and lastly that will pave the way for a better continent and for achieving sustainable development[14].

Ethiopia’s Conflicts on the American Agenda

In the shade of the adoption of crisis diplomacy by Biden’s administration, after the appointment of Jeffrey Feltman as the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, he has declared three main priorities in the region: Ethiopia-Tigray war, the Sudanese and Ethiopian military conflicts, and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam[15]. The region is witnessing one of the most brutal civil wars in history, between Ethiopia and Tigray. Such war is leading to a humanitarian disaster that will impact not only the region but also the whole world due to the huge connectivity of all the interests nowadays. Accordingly, the US is having a difficulty reaching a solution in the other two priorities due to the unwillingness of the Ethiopian side to reach a peaceful solution for any of the crises. Nonetheless, the US is unable to stop the massacres happening in northern Ethiopia under Abiy Ahmed’s rule because Abiy is not responding to any international warning.

The instable nature and the dramatic affects Ethiopia have made in the region as a result of its disrespect of human rights, and the inability of the international community to reach a precise decision raises a lot of questions. Abiy’s Ahmed rule pushed Ethiopia to several tensions with neighboring states, nonetheless armed internal conflicts and divisions which worsens the crisis more[16]. The US has declared the necessary steps to respond to the ongoing crisis of northern Ethiopia. The conflict is considered the worst humanitarian and human rights crises in the world with over 5 million people requiring humanitarian assistance. (whitehouse).

There are numerous reports of armed actors committing brutal crimes against humanity that included murder, rape, and other sexual violence against civilians. “The UN Population Fund has estimated that tens of thousands of women and girls in northern Ethiopia will need medical, mental health, psychosocial, and legal services to begin to rebuild their lives following conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence”.

“The US calls on conflicted parties to end the hostilities, to allow humanitarian access in order to ensure accountability for human rights abuses and in order to enter into an inclusive dialogue to preserve unity of the Ethiopian state”[17]. The UN Secretary-General was clear: “All parties must recognize a simple truce: there is no military solution.”[18].  At President Biden’s direction, the United States is actively pursuing measures to promote an end to the fighting, protect human rights, and help meet humanitarian needs”. On September 2021, Biden has signed an executive order to establish new sanctions regime that gives the US department of treasury working with the US state department the authority to hold accountable those in the Ethiopian government, Eritrean, TPLF, Amhara regional government who are responsible for or part of the prolonging the conflict and preventing cease fire[19].

Nonetheless, the US has imposed defense trade restrictions over exports to Ethiopia, and it urges other countries to implement similar measures to stop the flow of weapons to any of the parties in the conflict and support a negotiated cease fire. The US financial support for investigation by the UN and the African commission of human and people’s rights. The US has provided more than $185 million in COVID-19 related assistance to Ethiopia in addition to the donation of nearly 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered to date[20]

  Biden administration has paused security assistance and some economic assistance to Ethiopia and imposed visa restrictions on certain officials. US Secretary of State and the newly appointed US Special Envoy to the Horn, with the Secretary of State going so far as to characterize Ethiopian activities in Tigray as “ethnic cleansing”. However, American pressure did not have an impact on Abiy’s government regarding its acts in Tigray. A key demand of the US, the removal of Eritrean troops from Tigray, has not been met. According to some reports, Eritrean soldiers were still present in Tigray, where they were continuing to block humanitarian access and commit human rights violations. The Biden administration, according to Foreign Policy Magazine, is considering sanctions and targeting World Bank and IMF programs in Ethiopia to increase pressure on Abiy’s government[21].

While regarding the GERD, which threatens the rights of Sudanese and Egyptians in water supply. “The Biden administration has adopted a more neutral stance and has decoupled a previous pause in some US aid programs to Ethiopia from the GERD dispute. It also dispatched the Special Envoy to the Horn to Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia to reignite efforts to resolve the issue”[22] .The instability of Ethiopia, the pushing of Abiy’s policies towards generating conflicts and wars in the region instead of resorting to diplomacy, deteriorates any initiatives taken by international actors as the US for reaching a middle ground in the GERD or in any other conflict. Since the main goal of Abiy Ahmed is to spread violence, commit crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. In addition, the disrespect for international public law, agreements, and above all the UN decisions and staff who had been expelled from Ethiopia. All of the previously mentioned acts are enough to reflect whether Biden’s administration policies towards the horn of Africa especially Ethiopia as the center of conflicts, source of instability, and a hot spot area, might be ineffective at that time to re-establish a sense of normalcy. Biden’s administration fear that Ethiopia is getting support from China, making it possible for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to resist US pressure. China is also exploiting the Tigray crisis to make Abiy more dependent on its support in the UN Security Council. Additionally, Ethiopia could become a client state of China in the region, which would bring serious obstacles for regional security and US interests[23].

Accordingly, the GERD has become another proxy battle between the US and China. However, the dramatic effects of the Ethiopian conflicts with several actors will result in deteriorating the state’s capabilities in the near future, and thus, will push it to settle for Egypt’s and Sudan’s conditions for their rights in water supply especially post committing humanitarian crisis that is witnessed by the whole world and should be sanctioned. Additionally, not responding to the UN neither to any of the international actors including the US warnings during the Ethiopian Tigray war reduces the Ethiopian’s regime credit with the US.  


Counterterrorism and Relations with African States

Biden has directed several plans and programs in other African states as Kenya. The president of Kenya was the first African leader to meet with Biden[24]. The meeting resulted in addressing several aspects that grants a sustainable relation between the two states based on mutual respect. Moreover, the recent shuttle diplomacy of Anthony Blinken secretary of the state included meetings with Kenya. Biden’s administration has stressed on Kenya as a strategic partner in the region, aiming for cooperation on several levels especially on the security level[25]. Nonetheless, the Ethiopian war is on the doorsteps of Kenya, accordingly, it is in the benefits of Kenya to conduct cooperative agreements with other states.[26] Additionally, the Kenyan president has stated that Africa needs investment not charity, since Africa will provide the whole world with attractive demographic division with having a large number of youth and a geographical advantage, the rest of the world should provide them proper jobs through investments[27].

The US-Kenya relation is very crucial since it has been connected with the terrorist attacks of 1998 on the American Embassy in Nairobi. Accordingly, the American policy since that time even before 9/11 attacks has been directed to counterterrorism in Africa and led to lack of trust between the two states. Therefore, to rebuild this trust for reaching the maximum benefit for both sides through a cooperation it will pass through different stages[28]. President Uhuru Kenyatta has denied reports that the U.S. military sought authorisation to carry out drone strikes inside Kenya. He stressed that if such a request were made, he would refuse. “The U.S. has also been accused by rights groups of killing civilians not linked to terror merchants”.  Senior U.S. officials said “the U.S. military’s Africa Command is seeking authority to carry out armed drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab fighters in Kenya”[29].

In the shade of the American policy to counter terrorism in Africa and all over the world, Biden’s policies differed from that of Trump’s so much. During the adoption of Trump’s policies and the withdrawal of the US troops from several, Somalia was one of these places even though it is known for being the source of terrorism in the region especially with the presence of Al Shabab militant group. Biden’s policies in this stance is still unclear, why he did not sent back the American troops to continue countering terrorism, but leaving the continent subject and vulnerable to terrorist attacks that are supposed to threaten the American interests as well. Also, other states are still neglected on the real ground and receives no attention from the US.


In conclusion, Biden’s policies towards the Horn of Africa is affected by the unstable nature of the region. Additionally, the shift in the American administration from Republicans policies that tended to be conservative compared to those of Democrats that are based on liberal values and international cooperation, had a huge impact on the American influence in the horn of Africa, and thus challenged with China. Biden’s administration have used a coupled of policies to cure the internal and external issues that were a result of Trump’s administration, some of them are the total opposite and some remained the same status.

The appointment of Kamala Harris and Feltman each for a specific goal to pave the way for better US relations with the Horn of Africa. However, the situation in Ethiopia remains one of the most crucial obstacles Infront of US deteriorating several efforts for a resolution in the war as well as in other conflicts as the GERD.

Lastly, Biden’s administration is taking several measures in the region to guarantee its presence through cooperation on the security level specifically with Kenya a neighboring state to Ethiopia with considering the history of terrorism in Kenya to US. The American lack of response in Somalia to counterterrorism is still questionable especially in a region highly threatened by terrorist attacks.


[1] Joseph Hartung, “Biden in the Horn of Africa”, Horn international institute for strategic studies, 2021

[2] Christian von Soest, “The end of Apathy: New Africa under Biden”, German Institute for Global Area Studies, 2021.

[3] Valerie Hudson, “Foreign Policy Analysis”, Rowman &Little field, 2014.

[4] Gehad Khatib, , Al Siyassa Al Dawliya, 2021, 160.

[5] “Kenyan President first African leader to meet Biden”, AllAfrica, 2021

[6] Zainab Usman, “How Biden can Build US-Africa Relations”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2021.

[7] Joseph Hartung, “Biden in the Horn of Africa”, Horn international institute for strategic studies, 2021

[8] Valerie Hudson, “Foreign Policy Analysis”, Rowman &little field, 2014

[9] Hudson, “Foreign Policy Analysis: Domestic Politics and Opposition”, 141.

[10] Gehad Khatib, Al Siyassa Al Dawliya, 2021, 160.

[11] Khatib, “Biden’s African Policy”, 160.

[12] Kate Sullivan, “For 85 minutes, Harris the first woman with presidential power, CNN 2021.

[13] Khatib, “Biden’s African Policy”, 160.

[14] Khatib, “Biden’s African Policy”, 160.

[15] Khatib, “Biden’s African Policy”, 160.

[16] Whitehouse, “Biden-Harriss response to northern Ethiopia crisis”, 2021.

[17] Whitehouse, “Biden-Harriss response to northern Ethiopia crisis”, 2021.

[18] Whitehouse, “Biden-Harriss northern Ethiopia crisis”, 2021.

[19] Whitehouse, “Biden-Harriss response northern Ethiopia crisis”, 2021.

[20] Whitehouse, “Biden-Harriss response northern Ethiopia crisis”, 2021.

[21] Joseph Hartung, “Biden in the Horn of Africa”, Horn international institute for strategic studies, 2021.

[22] Joseph Hartung, “Biden in the Horn of Africa”, Horn international institute for strategic studies, 2021.

[23] Christian von Soest, “The end of Apathy: New Africa under Biden”, German Institute for Global Area Studies, 2021.

[24] “Kenyan President first African leader to meet Biden”, AllAfrica, 2021.

[25] “Kenyan President at Whitehouse”, AllAfrica,  2021.

[26] “Biden to Kenyatta on Transparency and Security”, AllAfrica, 2021.

[27] “Africa Needs Investment not Charity”, AllAfrica, 2021.

[28] Christian von Soest, “The end of Apathy: New Africa under Biden”, German Institute for Global Area Studies, 2021.

[29] “Kenyatta he’ll refuse if US asks Kenya for drones strikes”, AllAfrica, 2021.

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