Cablegate: Ethiopia: Assistant Secretary Frazer and Prime

DE RUEHDS #0286/01 0370754
P 060754Z FEB 08 ZDK





E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2018

Classified By: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto for Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C/NF) SUMMARY. On January 31, Assistant Secretary
Frazer met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in a
broad ranging 100 minute discussion on Kenya, Sudan, Somalia,
Somaliland, and the Eritrean border. Also in attendance were
Ambassador Yamamoto, Ambassador Courville, Sudan S/E
Williamson, AF/SPG Director Lauren Landis, and notetakers.
A/S Frazer opened by noting that Kenya is in a dangerous
position, but that both President Kibaki and Raila Odinga
have the potential to reach a settlement. Meles assessed
that both sides were playing hardball and that the
international community should place greater pressure on the
opposition to reign in the violence. Meles said the key
challenge in Sudan was to manage the North-South tension to
avoid a meltdown in 2011. Regarding Somalia, Meles said that
his government had developed a three track approach to be
presented to President Yusuf on Yusuf's return from London.
First, Meles said he hoped Ethiopian troops would withdraw
from Somalia by summer to be replaced by African Union and
newly trained Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces.
Second, his government would reach out to the opposition
within Somalia, and third, his government would reach out to
the external opposition. On Somaliland, A/S Frazer and Meles
agreed that they were not opposed to formal recognition, but
that the African Union should take the lead. Meles said that
Ethiopia would not drop out of the Algiers Peace Accord
process and that sufficient changes had been made in UNSC
resolution 1798, but he added that the Eritrea-Ethiopia
Boundary Commission's (EEBC) "virtual demarcation" decision
should not be supported by the UN. Lastly, Meles said the
United Nation's Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) could
move in its entirety to Ethiopia if UNMEE was forced out of


2. (C/NF) The meeting opened with an hour-long tour
d'horizon on the repercussions of the Kenyan elections.
Assistant Secretary Frazer began the discussion by noting
that Kenya is a dangerous situation, and not just as a local
or national problem, but also an international concern in
light of the terrorist presence in Kenya that might seek to
exploit the situation for their benefit. A/S Frazer said
that she thinks both Kibaki and Odinga have the potential to
be reasonable and reach a settlement. A/S Frazer noted that
the impact of the violence includes the loss of foreign
business and investment, as well as the loss of the U.S.
Peace Corps presence.

3. (C/NF) Meles said that he feels that both sides are
playing hardball, and agreed that the situation is very
dangerous. Meles said he was not sure what happened with
the elections, but feels that Kibaki had been more
accommodating in the beginning and has hardened his position
as the situation has developed. A/S Frazer responded that the
hardening of Kibaki,s position is because of the
post-election violence. Kibaki saw Odinga as responsible for
the violence and felt that he could not trust Odinga, which
caused him to harden his position. However, A/S Frazer said
that Kibaki may be in a better position to bring stability to
the situation. Kibaki has the power of the state behind him
and is the only decision-maker on his side, while Odinga is
one of five making the decisions. Odinga is probably the
most reasonable of the five, but he is constrained by the
hard-liners within his coalition. For example, William Ruto
presents one face to the international community, but then
turns and uses the radio to incite violence.

4. (C/NF) Meles opined that the opposition has been given a
free ride; all the pressure has been on President Kibaki, not
the opposition, even though they are responsible for most of
the violence. This is giving the wrong message to the
opposition. Kibaki,s government, even if it has not made
good decisions, has not incited violence. A/S Frazer noted
that it is difficult to have leverage over the opposition,
since the natural leverage of a government is over another
government, rather than an opposition group. The United

ADDIS ABAB 00000286 002 OF 005

States is advocating a message of accountability on all
sides, both government and opposition. A/S Frazer noted that
some Kikuyu politicians are beginning to use the Mungiki
militia to retaliate against the violence carried out by the

5. (C/NF) Meles noted that the opposition used the
perception that the government had stolen the election to
incite violence, but the main violence and victims of attacks
were in the rural areas, not the capital. Meles said that
"none of us spoke strongly enough against the ethnic
cleansing" that was taking place in the rural areas. Now the
"Kikuyu establishment" is using militias, such as the
Mungiki, to retaliate in a "payback period." It has to be
made clear to the Kikuyu establishment that ethnic cleansing
is unacceptable as a response to the violence and that they
cannot "fight fire with fire" or use militias to fight on
their behalf.

6. (C/NF) A/S Frazer responded that the U.S. message is the
same: ethnic cleansing is unacceptable and all sides must be
held accountable for the violence. However, A/S Frazer noted
that this is difficult because Odinga is an excellent
communicator and very good at playing the victim and the
media love the concept of the "good guy" versus the "bad
guy." A/S Frazer said that she feels that the situation must
be resolved quickly, particularly before the U.S. Congress
and UN Security Council come back into session and begin to
focus on Kenya, when the challenge will be to fight a battle
against overreaction. A/S Frazer emphasized that the U.S.
focus is on the process led by former UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and that the United States will follow Annan,s
direction. Following Annan,s lead will also help keep the
U.S. Congress from overreacting to the situation. The key is
a negotiated political agreement, which will then influence
the international response.

7. (C/NF) A/S Frazer said that it appears that Kibaki is
trying to consolidate power, while Odinga wants to
internationalize the conflict and maintain a state of crisis.
There is a danger that the situation could lead to civil
war. A/S Frazer noted that Secretary Rice had recently
spoken with Annan, and Annan mentioned that he had suggested
to Kibaki that he bring the military out in a limited way,
but that Kibaki demurred based on concerns regarding ethnic
divisions within the military. If the ethnic divisions
become more pronounced because of the violence, A/S Frazer
expressed her concern that it could lead to a coup d,etat.
The Kikuyu response could lead to civil war, as many Kikuyu
fundamentally don't believe that the election was stolen and
are incensed by the violence that the opposition is

8. (C/NF) Unfortunately, Meles responded, the international
reaction thus far does not inspire moderation. The EU
response of cutting off assistance gives the message that
Kibaki is the "bad guy" and does not push Odinga or his group
to moderate their positions. While the military may not
quit, they will not be monolithically behind Kibaki, which is
why some Kikuyu are turning to the militia instead. The
"single-minded focus on Kibaki" is not productive for a
peaceful settlement and will only entrench hard-liners on
both sides. Meles said that a more balanced approach is
needed to encourage a peaceful process.

9. (C/NF) A/S Frazer said that she personally believes that
Kibaki could change the dynamics single-handedly overnight
with a public address that is not defensive but a true
"Mandela moment." Until this point, Kibaki has been "stage
managing" his presidency, but needs to be more substantive in
his messages to the people. Kibaki must also control his
supporters, some of whom have tried to undermine his positive
efforts towards compromise. A/S Frazer noted that the
opposition prefers the term coalition to government of
national unity, which they already tried in the past and did
not work. A/S Frazer also opined that the government could
improve the situation by lifting the restrictions on the
media and asked the media to behave responsibly, which could
have the effect of making the opposition look very small in

ADDIS ABAB 00000286 003 OF 005

10. (C/NF) Meles agreed that Kibaki is not violent by
nature, but has only been going after the foot soldiers, not
the organizers of the violence on the Kikuyu side. Meles
believes this is because Kibaki can only rely on a "100
percent Kikuyu institution" that includes the "bosses" that
have organized the Kikuyu-led violence. This puts Kibaki
into a dangerous situation if he reaches out to the
opposition without guarantees that they will respond
positively. A/S Frazer responded by noting that Odinga,s
heart is not in violence and would be likely to accept a
compromise. However, it is not clear what kind of deal he
might agree to take. But by reaching out, A/S Frazer said,
Kibaki could place the media pressure on Odinga to agree,
rather than keep it on himself.

11. (C/NF) Meles said that it would be helpful for the
United States, in coordination with the EU, to speak to both
the opposition and key Kikuyu figures in clear terms
regarding accountability for the violence. Meles said that
he planned to meet with Kibaki at the AU Summit during an
IGAD meeting on the margins of the Summit. Meles emphasized
Ethiopia's direct stake in the situation in Kenya and that
Ethiopia "cannot sit idly by" or afford further instability
in Kenya that could impact the broader region. While "we
should not pour oil on fire, we must understand where Kibaki
is coming from, and that he has to be seen to defend Kikuyu
interests" and keep his Kikuyu base. Meles promised to
follow-up via Ambassador Yamamoto following the IGAD meeting.

--------------------------------------------- --
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12. (C/NF) Meles said that the key challenge in Sudan was
to manage the tension between the North and South through
2011 to avoid a meltdown. Meles was sympathetic to the
ongoing situation in Sudan, both Darfur and implementation of
the CPA, but said he thought that the CPA was the more
complicated issue. He admitted that Ethiopia's primary
concern was the CPA, particularly given its shared border
with Sudan, which touches both North and South. A/S Frazer
relayed that recent negative rhetoric towards the US from the
ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is unhelpful,
specifically talk of declaring the Charge d'Affaires persona
non grata. Meles agreed it was unhelpful, but pointed out
that the government in Khartoum is "not a one man show" and
he did not think these threats were serious. Frazer
continued that she was also extremely concerned about
information that the Government of Sudan is considering
kicking out the vital Pacific Architects and Engineers
contractors responsible for building the peacekeeper building
camps; without which UNAMID would be crippled. Meles opined
that the NCP was posturing a bit and that they would not push
too far.


13. (C/NF) On Somalia, Meles said that his government "had
been reviewing our options," and will present its
recommendations to President Abdullahi Yusuf when he passes
through Addis on his return from London. Meles said that he
is hoping to withdraw most of our troops, if not all of them,
by the summer. Meles was hopeful that additional forces from
the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) would be on the
ground by the time of Ethiopia's withdrawal, including the
remaining Burundian forces and the Nigerian battalion, and
that the forces from the TFG that had been trained by
Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda would be able to play
a greater role in maintaining security. At this point, the
Ethiopian forces will withdraw to the Ethiopian side of the
border, where they would be ready to respond quickly should
something happen, but the combined TFG and AMISOM forces
would be responsible for maintaining security. Meles noted
that some elements within the TFG were mistakenly counting on
an indefinite Ethiopian presence and said that he hoped that
Ethiopia's withdrawal would help those elements within the
TFG become more flexible.

ADDIS ABAB 00000286 004 OF 005

14. (C/NF) At the same time, Ethiopia will pursue a second
track of continuing to reach out to the opposition and
helping to make the TFG "more effective." Noting the complex
clan balances in the Mogadishu and Kismaayo areas, Meles said
that he was encouraging the TFG to form regional governments
in both areas to help bring greater stability and help
balance clan sensitivities. Meles said that he was
continuing to engage with the Hawiye, particularly the Habir
Gedir sub-clan, and that he was pleased that Ahmed Abdisalam
Adan (Hawiye/Habir Gedir/Ayr) had been brought into the new
TFG Cabinet as one of the Deputy Prime Ministers. In
response to a question from A/S Frazer, Meles indicated that
it may be possible for the TFG to dismiss Mogadishu Mayor
Mohamed Dheere (Hawiye/Abgal). However, Meles seemed to be
more concerned regarding the situation in Kismaayo, where the
problems were within the Darood clan rather than the Hawiye.
(Comment: While President Yusuf is from the Darood/Mijerteen
sub-clan, the Darood presence in Kismaayo is largely from the
Darood/Marehan sub-clan. End Comment.)

15. (C/NF) Meles also noted that his government had been
reaching out to the external opposition based in Asmara.
Meles opined that the opposition seemed uncomfortable with
the current situation and that it was now possible to bring
the opposition back into a political process. Saudi Arabia
could also play a helpful role in persuading some of the
former members of the Council of Islamic Courts to come back
into a political process, according to Meles. At the same
time, said Meles, there are now divisions within the Shabaab,
and "Aweys may no longer be in control" of the movement.
Meles emphasized the importance of isolating the Shabaab,
building the capacity of the TFG, and reaching out to the
opposition and key stakeholders. Meles said that he had
discussed parts of this strategy with TFG Prime Minister Nur
"Adde" Hassan Hussein, but that they were waiting to discuss
the military components with President Yusuf first given his
sensitivities on military arrangements.

16. (C/NF) A/S Frazer responded that this sounded like a
good plan, but one that required lots of work both with
AMISOM and the TFG. A/S Frazer noted that Ugandan President
Museveni had offered--pending discussions with his officials
at home--to deploy an additional two battalions under AMISOM
if the U.S. could provide financial support, which we would
try to do. Meles responded that this would be very helpful
and said that he would speak to Museveni about this
possibility. Meles also noted the importance of training an
effective Somali police force and that he was hoping to train
more Somali police if financial support could be identified.
A/S Frazer responded that we would see if we could identify
any funds to support this effort.


17. (C/NF) Turning to Somaliland, A/S Frazer noted the
recent visit of Somaliland President Dahir Rayale Kahin to
Washington. While some may interpret this visit as a sign
that the U.S. was on the verge of formal recognition, A/S
Frazer clarified that the United States was not getting ready
to recognize Somaliland, but believed that it was important
to engage with them to ensure regional stability. At the
same time, A/S Frazer said that the United States would not
be opposed to Somaliland independence if it should happen
within an AU context. A/S Frazer said that she had raised
the issue with AU Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare, who seemed
to be placing unrealistic conditions for addressing the
Somaliland issue. The first was that Somaliland negotiate
with the government in Mogadishu, either the TFG or its
successor, regarding its independence, and the second was
that there be a regional consensus on Somaliland's status,
neither of which are likely to happen or result in any clear

18. (C/NF) Meles said that Ethiopia's position on Somaliland
was the same as that of the United States, but that the
political situation within the AU was not yet ripe for
addressing the Somaliland issue. Meles said that he met with

ADDIS ABAB 00000286 005 OF 005

Rayale upon his return from Washington and urged him to write
to the AU requesting that they identify a timeframe for a
discussion on the Somaliland issue. However, Rayale "messed
things up" by essentially re-sending his previous letter
requesting recognition and membership in the AU, rather than
asking for a timeframe for a discussion on Somaliland. Meles
said that, if Somaliland had taken the route that he
suggested, it would have been likely that the issue could
have been addressed soon. However, if the elections for a
new AU Chairperson take place during the AU Summit, Meles
said that the next chairperson is unlikely to be as positive
towards Somaliland as Konare, which will only further delay
any discussion of Somaliland.

19. (C/NF) Meles also noted the complications of the current
political situation inside Somaliland with the delays in
preparations for the municipal and presidential elections.
While avoiding any specifics, Meles said that the clan
dynamics in Somaliland were out of balance, but that it was
important to convey to Rayale that he could not rely on
"outside forces" to tilt the balance in his favor. Even if
Ethiopia tried to intervene on Rayale,s behalf, Meles said,
the effort would fail.


20. (C/NF) Prime Minister Meles told A/S Frazer and
Ambassador that Ethiopia would not drop out of the Algiers
Peace Accord process. Sufficient changes had been made in
the UNSC resolution 1798 extending UNMEE operations by six
months to allow Ethiopia to remain in the process. Meles
added that the EEBC's "virtual demarcation" decision of
November 2006 was not in accordance with the Algiers process
and should not be supported or affirmed by the U.N. Meles
has told the international community in the past that the
border is symptomatic of deeper bilateral problems between
Ethiopia and Eritrea and that the way forward is through
direct dialogue between Eritrea and Ethiopia on the
fundamental differences that divide the countries and which
gave rise to the border conflict before demarcation can be
peacefully implemented. Without this step, there can be no
lasting peace between the two countries.

21. (C/NF) A/S Frazer asked what would have been the
consequences of dropping out of the Algiers Agreement. Meles
noted that had Ethiopia dropped out of the Algiers Process,
it would not have changed Ethiopia's position to remain
committed to avoiding conflict with Eritrea. Dropping out
would have consolidated hard-liners within his own government
who advocate a tougher line with Eritrea and the U.N., and
confused the Eritreans. Meles opined that there has been no
renewed border war because Eritrean citizens believe Ethiopia
has no design to take over Eritrea. This has induced
Eritreans to flee to Sudan and Ethiopia to escape the harsh
conditions and mandatory national service in Eritrea.
Dropping out of the process could have sent a confusing
message to Eritrea and raised tensions along the border.

22. (C/NF) In consultations with the UN Secretary General's
office, Meles said Ethiopia agreed to welcome and host the
entire UNMEE force should Eritrea continue with its fuel
restrictions and limitations on UNMEE operations. This would
be for the short term and that over a longer period, Ethiopia
expected to see UNMEE transition into an observer mission and
that they could operate entirely from the Ethiopia side.

23. (U) A/S Frazer cleared this cable.

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