For critics of US President Donald Trump, escalating tensions between two long-standing American allies, Egypt and Ethiopia, over a mega dam on a tributary of the River Nile marks the biggest diplomatic failure of his administration in Africa.
Mr Trump said last week that Egypt might “blow up” the Ethiopian-built dam, despite boasting in January that he deserved a Nobel Peace Prize because he had “made a deal”.
Trump a ‘hate figure for Ethiopians’
Kenya-based Horn of Africa security analyst Rashid Abdi said US mediation over the dam had worsened tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia is stepping up security around the dam,” Mr Abdi said.
“Its defensive measures include declaring the Benishangul-Gumuz region, where the dam is located, a restricted airspace, and there are also reports that Ethiopia is putting up anti-aircraft batteries around the dam. It probably fears reconnaissance flights by Egypt.”
He said this showed Mr Trump’s failure to understand how global diplomacy worked.
“He has this misconceived notion that you can cut a deal like in business. So he left the US Treasury to play the lead role in negotiations, when foreign policy is supposed to be conducted by the State Department. The consequences have been to aggravate an already bad situation,” Mr Abdi added.
Accusing Ethiopia of negotiating in bad faith following its decision to press ahead with filling the dam before addressing Egypt’s and Sudan’s concerns about the flow of water to their countries, the US has decided to cut a reported $100m ($$77m) in aid to Ethiopia – Africa’s second most-populous state, and a key US ally in the fight against militant Islamists in the volatile Horn of Africa.
“Ethiopia feels betrayed by America, and Trump is now a hate-figure for many Ethiopians,” Mr Abdi said, adding that they would be hoping for a Joe Biden victory in the 3 November presidential election.