The United States said Friday that it was easing restrictions on aid to Ethiopia, pointing to progress on human rights after a ceasefire with Tigrayan rebels.
The move comes just weeks after the United States halted food assistance to Ethiopia, alleging widespread diversion of badly needed aid for sale on local markets.
The resumption of assistance will be focused on work to promote peace and reconciliation, including through demining, officials said.
“We are lifting some restrictions on certain kinds of assistance, while pausing food aid,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby said that the State Department made the decision last week “in light of continuing improvements on human rights, particularly following the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in November” between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebels.
“Our fundamental approach here has been to reinforce progress toward enduring peace, while not overlooking concerns in Ethiopia when we assess that our assistance is being misdirected,” Kirby said.
The easing of US language on Ethiopia’s human rights situation could also allow the United States to be more supportive as Africa’s second most populous country looks for new assistance from the International Monetary Fund.
But the step does not for now meet one of Ethiopia’s priorities — a return to a major trade agreement.
The United States terminated Ethiopia’s trading preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act effective the start of 2022, pointing to human rights concerns.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March that Ethiopian and Eritrean troops as well as rebels committed war crimes during the brutal two-year conflict.
He pointed to sexual violence and the targeting of communities based on their ethnicity.
The United States has previously estimated that some 500,000 people died in the two-year conflict, making it one of the deadliest wars of the 21st century and dwarfing the toll from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The State Department said separately Friday that the change in guidance did not erase US concerns about the situation in Ethiopia.
“We will continue to raise concerns and speak out about reports of serious human rights abuses, including by non-state actors in Western Tigray, and urge the government to protect civilians and hold perpetrators accountable,” a State Department spokesperson said.
The conflict erupted in November 2020 as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in response to attacks on the military by the rebel group, which once dominated Ethiopian politics.
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