Addis Abeba : The Trump administration’s decision to suspend and delay development assistance to Ethiopia over the filling of the new Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) is misguided, shortsighted, and will undermine Washington’s relations and influence in one of Africa’s most significant states, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Ambassador Johnnie Carson said.
In an article published by allAfrica.com yesterday, the senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace advised the administration to take immediate steps to mend its ways before it is too late.
“The Ethiopians may not say it bluntly or loudly, but the suspension of assistance has tarnished relations with Washington. By acting wisely and skillfully, the U.S. can probably still prevent the damage from being deeper and more enduring,” he noted.
According to Ambassador Johnnie Carson, among the steps that should be taken to build back relations by boosting diplomaticis to keep the current ambassador in his post for another year. Michael Raynor is a skilled diplomat who knows Ethiopia and its current leadership. This is not the time to change leadership in the Addis embassy.
Also, the administration should dispatch Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Tibor Nagy to discuss U.S.-Ethiopia relations and the GERD issue and seek a face-saving way to pull back the suspension of development assistance. To help put bilateral relations back on track, there needs to be an increase in U.S. assistance to support democratic political change and for development programs and for boosting commercial interactions.
Finally, Washington should work with its European and African partners to build a “Friends of Ethiopia” coalition to strengthen diplomatic dialogue and coordinate greater assistance to one of Africa’s most important states.
Ambassador Carson pointed out that the decision taken by the Trump Administration in late August was intended to push Ethiopia into accepting a negotiated solution favored by Egypt. At issue is a timetable for filling the new dam and an agreement on how water from the dam will be allocated to Egypt and Sudan.
Although the announcement to suspend Ethiopia’s assistance was confirmed to reporters by officials at the State Department, the impetus behind this decision came from the Treasury Department, which has managed this issue for the administration, mostly to the total exclusion of the State Department and its Africa Bureau, which is led by a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, he revealed.
The former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa further noted that Ethiopia is one of the most widely respected countries in Africa. Headquarters of the African Union, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous state, a strong U.S. counter terrorism partner in the Horn of Africa and – in recent years – the fastest growing economy in Africa.
Carson explained that construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam has been a central pillar in the Ethiopian government’s continuing effort to accelerate the country’s economic growth. When completed, the dam is expected to increase Ethiopia’s electrical generation, expand agricultural production and lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty.
Amid internal regional, religious and political differences, construction of the GERD is one of the few things that all Ethiopians support. For domestic political reasons, the Ethiopian government is likely not to bow quickly or at all to American political pressure on the dam.
Source: Ethiopia News agency