US Congress rejects Donald Trump's cuts in aid to Africa

Wednesday May 03 2017

The United States Congress is expected to vote soon in support of a budget deal that preserves most Africa assistance programmes and provides nearly $1 billion to respond to current and threatened famines.

The pending agreement announced on Monday rejects many of the aid cuts sought by Republican President Donald Trump.

That outcome results from the unwillingness of key Republicans in Congress to slash funding for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

The most ardent congressional supporters of Mr Trump's proposed cuts were sidelined as a result of Republican leaders' decision to seek compromises with the Democratic Party minority. President Trump thus suffered a significant setback for his effort to “put American first” at the expense of poor countries. But the president has nevertheless said he will accept Congress' version of the federal government spending plan.

READ: Trump proposes huge cuts to UN, aid agencies in ‘America First’ budget

The Republican-Democratic deal applies to the US budget for the 2017 fiscal year that ends on September 30. Mr Trump is vowing to push again for steep reductions in State Department and USAid allocations for fiscal 2018.


READ: Aid to Africa projected to fall during Trump’s presidency

Backers of continued US assistance to Africa are praising the agreement reached by Republican and Democratic negotiators.

“The funding for the State Department and USAid demonstrates strong bipartisan support as negotiations move forward on next year’s budget, particularly as proposals surface that would pull America back from the world,” declared Liz Schrayer, head of the US Global Leadership Coalition. That group represents some 500 businesses and NGOs that call for diplomacy and development to be given as much priority as US military initiatives.

Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, specifically hailed the commitment to allocate $990 million to alleviate acute food shortages in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen.

“With 20 million people on the brink of starvation, there’s no question that this money will save lives,” Ms Lee said.

The legislation also extends US support for health programmes important to Africa, such as the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Congress also plans to provide $30 million for the African Development Foundation, which Mr Trump had favoured eliminating.

But the compromise package does contain some of the funding reductions for international organisations that Mr Trump had targeted.

No money is to be allocated for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the Green Climate Fund. And the United Nations is facing a $640 million cut in Washington's $10 billion share of the UN budget.

The proposal prohibits any US spending for implementation of the UN Arms Trade Treaty. Kenya played a leading role in fashioning that international agreement, which is opposed by the US gun lobby.

Congress appears willing to give Mr Trump about half of the $54 billion increase in US military spending that he had urged. The Pentagon's $521 billion budget would grow by five percent under the terms of the compromise reached by Congress.