The recent hostilities between Ethiopia and its northern Tigray region threaten to escalate into a full-scale civil war that could spill beyond Ethiopia’s borders. This could upset the delicate balance of power in the Horn of Africa, and spark a humanitarian and economic crisis for the region and beyond. Long a regional ethnic power and a major player in the Ethiopian Government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has grown increasingly alarmed by what it perceives as political slights perpetrated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who came to power in 2018 following popular uprisings and calls for democracy. For its part, Mr. Ahmed’s government defends recent moves as crackdowns on corruption. To make sense of this complicated and volatile situation, former ambassador to Eritrea Robert G. Houdek, ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn and Africa expert Dr. Emma Boyle will join us in a discussion moderated by FPRI Trustee and Chair of FPRI’s Africa Program, Ambassador Charles A. Ray.
Robert G. Houdekhas had a 35 year as a Foreign Service Officer, during which he served as a Special Assistant to Dr. Henry Kissinger at the NSC, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador/Chief of Mission to Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea; other African assignments included Kenya (DCM), Sierra Leone (DCM), and Guinea (political officer). he is a recipient of the President’s Exceptional Service Medal for his role in the evacuation of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the last days of the civil war. He enjoyed a second, ten year career, as the National Intelligence Officer for Africa
David Shinn has been teaching in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University since 2001. He previously served for 37 years in the Foreign Service with assignments at embassies in Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritania, Cameroon, Sudan, and as ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. One of his positions in the State Department was director for East Africa and the Horn of Africa. He is the co-author of the Historical Dictionary of Ethiopia and China and Africa: A Century of Engagement. He has a PhD in political science from George Washington University.
Dr. Emma Boyle is Visiting Assistant Professor at LaSalle University. Her research interests include the geography of violence in civil war, peace and conflict in Africa, the resource curse, and terrorism and counter-terrorism. She is the co-editor of Globalizing Somalia: Multilateral, International, and Transnational Repercussions of Conflict (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2013) and has previously published in Terrorism and Political Violence and Security Studies.
Charles A. Ray served as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of Zimbabwe. In addition, he was the first U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, opening the Consulate General there in 1998. Ambassador Ray is a Trustee of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Chair of the Africa Program. He is also currently a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Diplomacy, communications director for the Association of Black American Ambassadors, chair of the Una Chapman Cox Foundation Advisory Council, and a member of the board of the Cold War Museum.