Ethiopia’s bold political and economic reforms which have been the toast of global investors have won a significant embrace from the United States which will provide financial assistance to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to support him along the way.
According to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “an agreement has been reached regarding the strengthening of the holistic and ongoing reform in Ethiopia to which the United States Government plans to provide substantial financial support.”
Neither Pompeo nor Abiy provided further details but the enthusiastic support from the US is what some analysts say awaits Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari should embark on the long awaited reforms of Africa’s largest economy.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation after Nigeria, has long been an ally of the United States, which supplies about $1 billion in aid annually and this US support with the clout it carries could help Ethiopia make significantly much more economic progress than Nigeria and help it better position to take advantage of the African free trade agreement.
Pompeo praised political reforms Abiy has spearheaded ahead of Ethiopia’s upcoming elections. Ethiopians are due vote on Aug. 29 in a balllot Abiy has promised will be free and fair in a bold break from decades of repression.
“A free and credible vote will show that there is no false choice between democracy and security and it will ensure that everyone has a choice,” Pompeo told reporters.
Abiy took power in 2018 following years of anti-government protests. He freed 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 on the outside. These were reforms that came from Ethiopian people,” Pompeo said.
A senior U.S. State Department official told pool reporters said Abiy appeared committed to holding elections on time, although he said Ethiopian security agencies – long used to suppressing political opposition – might need some more training on respecting human rights.
Abiy’s reforms, while applauded abroad, have also unleashed simmering ethnic and political tensions at home as regional powerbrokers jockey for position. More than 2 million of Ethiopia’s 109 million citizens have been displaced, according to the United Nations.
Pompeo is on a tour that has already taken him to Germany, Senegal and Angola. His visit that excludes a stop in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, comes as some African governments are questioning U.S. President Donald Trump’s commitment to their continent.