The US State Department said on Wednesday that the government is suspending some aid to Ethiopia over the “lack of progress” in the country’s talks with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that it is building on the River Nile, Associated Press (AP) has reported. The US move follows a rare direct intervention of President Donald Trump on an issue in Africa, a continent that he hasn’t visited as president and which he hardly ever mentions in public.
“The decision to ‘temporarily pause’ some aid to a key regional security ally reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place,” a State Department spokesperson told AP.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approved the plan to halt US foreign aid to Ethiopia over the country’s dispute with Egypt and Sudan over the dam, Foreign Policy reported on Thursday. The cuts will not have an impact on US funding for emergency humanitarian relief, food assistance or healthcare programmes aimed at addressing Covid-19 and HIV/AIDs.
The dispute centres on two of Africa’s most populous and powerful nations, Ethiopia and Egypt, and some have feared that it could lead to military conflict. Ethiopia is building Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, causing serious tension with Egypt, which has called it an existential threat and worries that it will reduce the country’s share of water from the Nile. Ethiopia says that the $4.6 billion project will be an engine for development that will pull millions of people out of poverty.
According to the New York Times, earlier this year the US tried to mediate in the dispute, but Ethiopia walked away amid accusations that Washington was siding with Egypt.