WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has decided to cut $100 million in aid to Ethiopia amid a dispute with Egypt and Sudan over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile, a congressional source told Reuters on Wednesday.
Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been locked in a bitter dispute over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which remains unresolved although the reservoir behind the dam began filling in July.
“State has decided to cut assistance” due to Ethiopia’s position on GERD negotiations, the source told Reuters via email. “Up to $100M or so will be affected, of which $26M is funding that expires at the end of the (financial year),” the email said.
The source said much of the expiring funding deals with regional or border security, political competition and consensus-building, and nutrition.
But funding for HIV/AIDS, the food for peace program, international disaster assistance, and migration and refugee assistance would be unaffected, the official said.
The Ethiopian foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.
A US State Department official who did not want to be identified said the decision to pause certain funding to Ethiopia was triggered by Washington’s concern over Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to start filling the dam before an agreement.
“The United States previously and repeatedly expressed its concern that commencing the filling of the GERD before all necessary dam safety measures were implemented created serious risks,” the official told Reuters.
Filling the dam while negotiations were underway, the official added, also undermined confidence in the negotiations and was inconsistent with commitments Ethiopia had made to not take unilateral decisions.
The United States and Ethiopia have long been close allies, often working in tandem against Somali Islamist insurgents.
But US officials have been frustrated by the failure to strike a deal on the dam.
Ethiopia says the dam will generate electricity and help lift its population out of poverty. It will have an installed capacity of 6,450 megawatts – more than doubling Ethiopia’s existing capacity – and is the centerpiece of its bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter.
But Egypt relies on the Nile for more than 90 percent of its fresh water and fears the dams will cause more shortages.
Negotiations have faltered over a demand from Egypt and Sudan that any deal should be legally binding, over how to resolve future disputes, and how to manage the dam during periods of reduced rainfall or drought.
Writing by Katharine Houreld; Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Giles Elgood
Image: Water flows through Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam as it undergoes construction work on the river Nile in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region, Ethiopia, September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo