July 14, 2024

Ethiopia: USAID Testifies Before House Subcommittee on Current State of U.S. Policy

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed arrives on the flight line of Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 11, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew-John Braman)
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed arrives on the flight line of Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 11, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew-John Braman)

Tyler Beckelman, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on Tuesday, delivered a testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, providing insights into the current state of U.S. policy towards Ethiopia.

Beckelman expressed gratitude for the opportunity to address Chairman James, Ranking Member Jacobs, and members of the Subcommittee, acknowledging their unwavering support for USAID and the Ethiopian people.

He highlighted the extensive development partnership between USAID and Ethiopia, noting significant progress in living conditions over the past two decades. From 2000 to 2020, Ethiopia experienced a remarkable decline in its poverty rate, an increase in life expectancy, a substantial reduction in maternal and child mortality, expanded primary school enrollment, and improved access to safe water. However, these gains were marred by the devastating two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia, resulting in widespread suffering and displacement.

The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) brought relief to the Tigray region. Yet, Beckelman pointed out that several aspects of the agreement, such as disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, remained unfulfilled. He stressed the imperative for Ethiopia to confront its violent past and engage in peaceful dialogue to prevent future conflicts.

USAID has been actively supporting COHA implementation, leading to improved conditions in northern Ethiopia. Efforts towards disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration are underway, with plans to support conflict-affected communities through various initiatives, including psychosocial support, inter-communal dialogue activities, small-scale infrastructure projects, and livelihood enhancement for demobilized soldiers.

Beckelman emphasized the importance of transitional justice in Ethiopia, urging the government to demonstrate its commitment to accountability, transparency, and victim-centered processes.

Civil society and human rights played a pivotal role in the Ethiopian context, and USAID supports local organizations that advocate for human rights and justice. The agency also collaborates with international human rights monitors to address human rights violations, particularly in northern Ethiopia.

Sustainable peacebuilding remains a key focus for USAID, with an emphasis on resolving conflicts through negotiation and dialogue. The agency supports local initiatives that promote trust-building between communities and engages women leaders and civil society organizations in peace efforts.

The National Dialogue process in Ethiopia holds promise for addressing deep-rooted divisions. Beckelman highlighted the importance of an inclusive and transparent dialogue, stating that USAID would support civil society and stakeholders’ meaningful engagement in the process.

The humanitarian aspect of the COHA presented challenges, with issues arising around food aid diversion. USAID took the step to pause all food assistance to Ethiopia in response to a coordinated diversion scheme. However, following reforms and additional safeguards introduced by the Ethiopian government, USAID recently decided to resume food assistance, with measures in place to ensure aid reaches the most vulnerable populations.

Beckelman assured the committee of USAID’s commitment to monitor and evaluate these reforms continually and emphasized the agency’s determination to prevent waste, fraud, or abuse in the food aid system.

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