US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has ramped up new humanitarian aid to Ethiopia with $331 million during a visit to Addis Ababa aimed at improving the United States’ relations with the East African country.
The aid package was made public during a visit by Blinken to a United Nations logistics warehouse in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday after he met with the country’s leaders.
“This funding will provide life-saving support to those displaced and affected by conflict, drought, and food insecurity in Ethiopia,” Blinken said in a statement.
The new assistance brings the total of US aid for Ethiopia in 2023 to $780m, the top US diplomat said. He added that the funding will supply “food, shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, healthcare efforts, education, and other key services” to Ethiopians.
The announcement came as Blinken held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen earlier in the day.
His visit to Ethiopia also follows an agreement last November to put an end to deadly fighting between Ethiopian government forces and rebels in the northern Tigray region.
The US had criticised Abiy’s government for alleged atrocities committed by Ethiopian forces and their allies during the conflict, which killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.
Washington imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Addis Ababa amid the fighting, and it also cut the country off from a duty-free trade programme designated for sub-Saharan African countries.
On Wednesday, the US Department of State said Blinken and Abiy discussed the “significant progress” made in implementing the peace agreement.
“This progress includes improved humanitarian access and restoration of basic services,” it said in a statement.
The secretary reiterated US support for efforts by the parties to achieve full implementation of the agreement in order to lay the groundwork for a sustainable peace.”
The State Department added that Blinken and Abiy also discussed the “importance of accountability for the atrocities perpetrated by all parties during the conflict”.
For his part, Abiy said in a Twitter post that he discussed various bilateral issues with Blinken. “We have agreed to strengthen the long standing bilateral relations [between] our countries with a commitment to partnership,” he wrote.
Rights groups have been critical of Ethiopian forces and their Eritrean allies, accusing them of major abuses, including murder and sexual violence, in their war against Tigrayan forces – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
A UN-backed commission last year found that both government and Tigrayan forces committed human rights violations, including war crimes.
Last week, Amnesty International USA urged Blinken to “put human rights at the heart of his conversation with Prime Minister Abiy”.
Ethiopia – Africa’s second most populous nation, with more than 120 million people – has denied the most serious allegations of human rights violations during the war.
It previously rejected the US criticism and accused Washington of meddling in its internal affairs.
Blinken’s trip is the latest in a series of visits to Africa by senior US officials as the administration of President Joe Biden looks to reinforce ties with countries on the continent amid competition from China and Russia.
The US secretary of state will head to the West African nation of Niger, which has been confronting armed groups, on Thursday.