US aid for Ethiopian reform


The US will provide financial assistance to Ethiopia as it pursues political reforms, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said during a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Agreement has been reached regarding strengthening holistic and ongoing reform in Ethiopia to which the US plans to provide substantial financial support,” the statement said.

Neither Pompeo nor Abiy provided further details. Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, has long been an ally of the United States, which gives about $1 billion in aid annually.

Pompeo praised political reforms Abiy spearheaded ahead of upcoming elections. Ethiopians are due vote on August 29 in a ballot Abiy promised will be free and fair in a break from decades of repression.

“A free and credible vote will show there is no false choice between democracy and security and will ensure everyone has a choice,” Pompeo told reporters.

Abiy took power in 2018 following years of anti-government protests. He released thousands of political prisoners, won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending a long-running conflict with neighbouring Eritrea and put prominent dissidents and human rights activists in positions of power.

“These aren’t reforms imposed by somebody outside. These were reforms that came from Ethiopian people,” Pompeo said.

A senior US State Department official said Abiy appeared committed to holding elections on time, although Ethiopian security agencies – long used to suppressing political opposition – might need training on respecting human rights.

Abiy’s reforms, while applauded abroad, have unleashed ethnic and political tensions at home as regional powerbrokers jockey for position. More than two million of Ethiopia’s 109 million citizens have been displaced, according to the UN.

“The most important challenge for us is security,” Ethiopia’s foreign minister Gedu Andargachew told reporters. “Most of our youth have no work. In this situation it is difficult to maintain peace and order.”

Abiy has overseen economic reforms, promising to open a bureaucratic, state-run economy to foreign investment and liberalise the telecoms and banking sectors. Ethiopia struggles with foreign exchange shortages inhibiting investment.

Gedu said there was “progress” in a dispute the US Treasury is mediating between Ethiopia and Egypt over Ethiopia’s giant Blue Nile hydropower dam.

Pompeo is on a tour that has taken him to Germany, Senegal and Angola. His visit comes as some African governments question President Donald Trump’s commitment to the continent.