ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – Americaâ€™s top diplomat in his final Africa stop on Tuesday discussed political reforms with Ethiopiaâ€™s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister and the U.S. plans to provide â€œsubstantial financial supportâ€ to strengthen them, Ethiopia said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to speak to reporters later in the day. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedâ€™s office said the two also spoke about regional issues, which likely included Ethiopiaâ€™s dispute with Egypt over a massive dam project.
Ethiopia is Africaâ€™s second most populous nation with well over 100 million people and it is a key U.S. security ally in the Horn of Africa. Abiy is under growing pressure to uphold the dramatic reforms that won him the Nobel last year. He took office in 2018 and quickly ended a state of emergency, freed political prisoners and welcomed opposition groups home from exile.
But a major test looms in August with an election that the prime minister has repeatedly vowed will be free and fair. Analysts warn that his loosening of repressive measures has unleashed long-held grievances among some of the countryâ€™s more than 80 ethnic groups. Clashes at times have turned deadly.
The U.S. has encouraged Ethiopia to uphold its reforms. Separately, the Trump administration has pressed Abiy and his government to find a peaceful resolution to its dispute with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is nearing completion.
Ethiopia says the dam is crucial in helping to pull many of its people out of poverty, while Egypt warns that too-rapid filling of the damâ€™s reservoir in the coming years will imperil its share of Nile River waters.
Washington has stepped in to help host several rounds of talks after Abiy warned that his country could muster millions to fight over the dam issue but preferred to negotiate a peaceful solution.
Pompeo on Tuesday expressed his wish that talks on the dam would â€œbear positive results,â€ Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said.
Pompeo is the first Cabinet official to visit Africa in 18 months. He also stopped in Senegal and Angola on a visit that seeks to reassert U.S. interests on a continent that many have accused the Trump administration of largely neglecting. China, Africa’s top trading partner for a decade now, is a major concern for the U.S.
Ethiopia has close business ties with China and has grown closer to wealthy Gulf nations on the other side of the nearby Red Sea as well. Numerous global powers are turning their focus to the African continent of more than 1.2 billion people, many of them young.
Analysts have said a key task for Pompeo is countering the recent messaging out of Washington as the Pentagon considers cutting U.S. military presence in Africa and new visa restrictions target Nigerians, Sudanese, Tanzanians and Eritreans.
Cara Anna in Johannesburg contributed.