USAID and the International Cooperation Ministry has announced that the United States will give Egypt seven grants worth $125 million to support education, health and other development projects.
These reports come less than two months after the United States announced that it would withhold $130 million of security assistance to Egypt on account of its human rights violations and detention of 16 American citizens.
At the time, critics said that Washington should have held back the full $300 million it gives to Cairo as there are 60,000 political prisoners in the country who are systematically tortured.
“This half measure sends a muddled message about our commitment to human rights and democracy,” Senator Chris Murphy said in a tweet.
Over the last 40 years the US has given Egypt $30 billion and USAID has invested $900 million since General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the former Defense Minister under late President Morsi, rose to power in 2014.
This money has been under scrutiny with rights advocates calling on the US to leverage the money on a commitment to improve human rights, rather than giving the repressive Egyptian state a blank cheque to continue abuses.
The announcement comes shortly after Saudi Arabia deposited $3 billion into Egypt’s central bank for what it said were efforts to help its post-covid recovery.
The World Bank has also just approved a $360 million development policy financing loan to Egypt for the same reason.
In the past the World Bank has been criticized by Human Rights Watch for (HRW) handing over vast sums of money but not speaking out about the arrest and intimidation of healthcare professionals in Egypt.
Egypt’s healthcare system has been on the verge of collapse for several years due to corruption whilst several healthcare professionals have been arrested and detained for challenging the government’s official narrative on the death toll and infection rates.
US withheld some aid in Sept.
In September, the Biden administration has decided it will hold back some — but not most — of $300 million in conditioned military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns, according to a U.S. official, adding that the money that is being sent would also have restrictions on its use.
The move was a compromise that disappointed some lawmakers and activists worried about abuses in the majority-Arab country. But it was also arguably a more human-rights-friendly stance than most previous administrations have taken when it comes to U.S. military aid to Egypt, reported Politico.
The U.S. gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid annually. Of that, Congress has put human-rights-related conditions on $300 million. But the secretary of State can overrule those conditions and let the aid reach Cairo, which has been the standard move.
The U.S. official said the administration planned to give $170 million of the $300 million to Egypt, but would withhold the remaining $130 million until the Egyptian government met unspecified human rights conditions.
The $170 million, however, can be used only for certain functions, such as counterterrorism, border security and non-proliferation — areas allowed under a certain provision of statutes covering the aid.
The $130 million being withheld is a sum arrived at by the Biden administration because of certain limitations put into statutes involving the funds.
President Joe Biden and Blinken, his chief diplomat, have said they are committed to promoting human rights, even when it comes to allied countries led by dictators like Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Several prominent Democratic lawmakers have pushed the administration to live up to that ideal and withhold the entire $300 million from Egypt. They note that, among other things, Sisi has jailed tens of thousands of people on political grounds.
Among the most prominent voices urging that Biden withhold the entire $300 million has been Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who said at the time that he would not be satisfied with a compromise move like the one the Biden administration has taken.
“The law is the law. The law says you can’t provide this $300 million unless you can certify there’s been demonstrable progress on human rights. That progress has not been made,” Murphy said at the time. “I also worry that a half-measure won’t make anybody happy. The Egyptians will still feel like they’ve been slapped in the face, but the world will not feel the full moral impact.”
Sisi has found ways to be useful to the United States. That includes cooperating on counterterrorism and maintaining a cold peace with Israel. Earlier this year, Egypt helped broker a cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas militant group in Gaza.
Sisi met in September with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for talks in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh. It was the first public meeting between an Israeli and Egyptian leader in more than a decade, and it is likely to please Washington, which is eager to see improved relations between Israel and its neighbors.