What role can Biden play in Ethiopia
The much anticipated Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a source of contention between Ethiopia and Egypt for some time now. The dam, when completed, will be Africa’s largest hydropower plant. Egypt retorts that GERD will limit its access to water.
Historically, the Nile has been a vital source of fresh water for Egypt, mainly used in agriculture. About 90% of Egypt’s fresh water comes from the Nile. The Egyptian government is concerned that GERD will cause water scarcity for its small farmers. Although the United States acted as a neutral mediator in the dispute, the former Trump administration made little or no effort to defuse the situation. The United States must improve relations with Ethiopia by supporting Ethiopia’s decision to fill the dam, improve Egypt’s agricultural sector, and resolve the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region. A big order.
Ethiopia needs the support of the United States in its decision to fill the dam. Ethiopia started filling the dam reservoir from July with the expectation of having the dam operational by 2023. The dam is a critical factor in determining Ethiopia’s development. According to the World Food Program, 5.9 million Ethiopians face food insecurity. The World Food Security Index ranks Ethiopia 108 out of 113 countries on its Food Security Index, compared to Egypt, which ranks 60. The United States, an ally of both Ethiopia and Egypt, negotiated talks between the two countries and Sudan to reach a mutual agreement. In September 2020, Trump blocked $ 272 million in foreign aid to Ethiopia, accusing the country of reneging on deals he made. However, the Biden administration decoupled the aid break from the GERD negotiations.
Since Ethiopia declared its intention to build GERD, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have held numerous talks. The United States played a role in mediating the talks, but they were unsuccessful. Sudan has indicated that it supports Ethiopia’s decision to build the dam to avoid heavy flooding during the rainy season. Sudan also benefits from the dam as the country will receive relatively cheap electric power generated by the dam. In 2015 Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt signed a declaration of principles. However, many unsuccessful talks have taken place since the deal was signed.
To find a solution, the United States should consider providing Egypt with agricultural and irrigation solutions to allay concerns about water scarcity. The United States, a longtime military ally of Egypt, should focus on providing monetary assistance to improve Egypt’s irrigation system. Egypt is currently offering farmers low interest loans for the purchase of equipment. This solution is costly for small Egyptian farmers. The United States currently gives Egypt about $ 1.5 billion in foreign aid, 89% of which goes for military aid. The United States should focus more on providing the country with economic assistance more focused on humanitarian and development goals. Providing assistance to the Egyptian agricultural sector might convince Egypt to reconsider its decision to accept Ethiopia’s decision to fill the dam.
Ethiopia is the most populous country in the Horn of Africa. If the Biden administration does not act now to preserve the current situation, efforts to reach an agreement on the dam will remain unresolved, leaving room for new dimensions in the conflict.
At the same time, Ethiopia faces a violent conflict centered on the Tigray region which has the potential to spread to neighboring countries. The Biden administration must hold the Ethiopian government accountable for charges related to ethnic cleansing and ongoing human rights violations. The humanitarian crisis in the northern region, with thousands of deaths and displaced people in the region, shows no signs of abating. The region is experiencing a shortage of food and water where many are starving, the situation deteriorating rapidly.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has cut off access to the Tigray region despite publicly declaring that the conflict was over months ago and that he had promised access to government agencies. aid. The Biden administration, alongside the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union, must ensure that humanitarian aid can reach vulnerable populations and hold the parties to account and demand a political settlement of the conflict . Nonetheless, first of all, the United States must urge the Ethiopian government and other armed groups to cease their military activities in the region and immediately grant unhindered humanitarian access to the region.
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