US plans ‘substantial financial support’ for Ethiopia
London, Feb. 18, 2020 (AltAfrica)-America’s top diplomat in his final Africa stop on Tuesday discussed political reforms with Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, and the U.S. plans to provide “substantial financial support” to strengthen them, Ethiopia said.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke about regional issues including Ethiopia’s dispute with Egypt over a massive dam project.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation with well over 100 million people and it is a key U.S. security ally in the Horn of Africa. Abiy is under growing pressure to uphold the dramatic reforms that won him the Nobel last year. He took office in 2018 and quickly ended a state of emergency, freed political prisoners and welcomed opposition groups home from exile.
But a major test looms in August with an election that the prime minister has repeatedly vowed will be free and fair. Analysts warn that his loosening of repressive measures has unleashed long-held grievances among some of the country’s more than 80 ethnic groups. Clashes at times have turned deadly.
“A free and credible vote will show that everyone has a voice,” Pompeo told reporters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
“We have no experience of democracy in the past but we are opening up the space for all,” said Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew.
Separately, the Trump administration has pressed Abiy and his government to find a peaceful resolution to its dispute with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is nearing completion.
Ethiopia says the dam is crucial in helping to pull many of its people out of poverty, while Egypt warns that too-rapid filling of the dam’s reservoir in the coming years will imperil its share of Nile River waters.
Washington has stepped in to help host several rounds of talks after Abiy warned that his country could muster millions to fight over the dam issue but preferred to negotiate a peaceful solution.
“A great deal of work remains but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this,” Pompeo said. A final agreement had been expected this month.
The secretary of state also announced that the U.S. would provide another $8 million to support efforts to fight a massive locust outbreak in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Pompeo is the first Cabinet official to visit Africa in 18 months. He also stopped in Senegal and Angola on a visit that seeks to reassert U.S. interests on a continent that many have accused the Trump administration of largely neglecting. China, Africa’s top trading partner for a decade now, is a major concern for the U.S.
Ethiopia has close business ties with China and has grown closer to wealthy Gulf nations on the other side of the nearby Red Sea as well. Numerous global powers are turning their focus to the African continent of more than 1.2 billion people, many of them young.
Analysts have said a key task for Pompeo is countering the recent messaging out of Washington as the Pentagon considers cutting U.S. military presence in Africa and new visa restrictions target Nigerians, Sudanese, Tanzanians and Eritreans.
“Peace in Africa will be won by Africans,” Pompeo told reporters.