US cuts aid to Ethiopia over Nile dam quarrel

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The United States suspended Wednesday a portion of its financial aid for Ethiopia citing the lack of progress in talks with Sudan and Egypt over a huge new dam on the Nile river.

Washington has become increasingly concerned about the dispute over Ethiopia’s move to keep filling the reservoir behind the 145-meter (475-foot) tall hydropower dam, which the two downstream countries say threatens their water supplies, the State Department said.

“Due to Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without an agreement with Egypt and Sudan, the Secretary of State, based on guidance from the President, has decided to put a temporary pause on certain US foreign assistance for Ethiopia,” it added.

The aid cut came after Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia failed Friday to agree on a unified text on the management of the dam following 10 days of negotiations.

The State Department said that commencing the filling of the reservoir before necessary safety measures were implemented “created serious risks for the populations of the downstream countries.”

In addition, it said that by continuing to fill the dam, Ethiopia was undermining confidence in the negotiations.

Ethiopia has pressed forward with filling the reservoir to be able to test the dam’s first two turbines.

The State Department did not say how much aid was being cut off, and for what programs or projects.

But it noted that the United States is Ethiopia’s “largest bilateral development partner,” and said it would continue its support to Addis Ababa for HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 programs, for drought relief and other humanitarian needs.

Fitsum Arega, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Washington, said Tuesday on Facebook that he had been informed that the US aid cuts would be temporary.

“They told us the issue is a ‘temporary pause,’” Arega said.

“The dam is ours. We will complete it through our efforts. Our Ethiopia will have a bright glow through our efforts,” he said.

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