Search

 

Cablegate: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles On 2010 National

VZCZCXRO1456
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1259/01 1330750
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120750Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0525
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP IMMEDIATE
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 001259

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM EAID ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIAN PRIME MINISTER MELES ON 2010 NATIONAL
ELECTIONS, DRAFT NGO LAW, AND OGADEN HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

REF: ADDIS 1223

ADDIS ABAB 00001259 001.2 OF 003


SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) During a nearly three hour meeting on May 9 held
jointly with the Ambassadors of France and the UK, Ethiopian
Prime Minister Meles told Ambassador Yamamoto that his
administration fully supported ethnic diversity and the
importance of democratic values and good governance in
conjunction with economic development. The Prime Minister
said he wanted a vibrant opposition but not one in violation
of the constitution or in league with insurgents. Meles
committed to working with the international community on
making the 2010 national elections transparent and open, but
cautioned that no foreign entity could dictate or direct the
conduct of the 2010 elections because it would be counter to
the sovereign rights of Ethiopia.

2. (SBU) On a related subject, the three Ambassadors raised
deep concern that the new proposed NGO law (reftel) would so
severely restrict NGO operations, especially in support of
democratic and good governance programs heading into 2010
elections, that it would severely undermine Ethiopia's
relations with its most important donor partners. The Prime
Minister agreed to delay submission of the proposed law to
the council of ministers until the ambassadors could submit
in writing specific concerns and questions on the NGO law and
follow-up discussion with the Prime Minister.

3. (SBU) The Ambassadors raised continued problems in the
Ogaden with distribution of food and medical services,
especially for inoculations against measles and other
diseases. The Prime Minister said he would look into this
problem, but added that the Ethiopian Government (GoE) lacked
confidence in some NGOs operating in the Somali region of
Ethiopia because of their suspected ties to insurgents. The
Prime Minister agreed that those NGOs under suspicion of
illegal activities should work with the embassy from their
respective country to work out modalities for operations in
the Ogaden region with the GOE. End Summary.

AMBASSADORS DRAW LINE ON 2010 NATIONAL ELECTIONS
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) UK Ambassador Norman Ling, French Ambassador
Stephane Gompertz and the U.S. Ambassador met jointly with
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his chief of staff,
Gebretensai on May 9. Ambassador Ling noted that democracy
will flourish if the GoE ensures that the 2010 national
elections are transparent and the opposition is given
political space to operate. The three ambassadors stressed
the deep frustration of the opposition during the 2008 local
election in which the major opposition parties boycotted as a
result of alleged harassment and restrictions by the ruling
party. If public frustration could not be relieved through a
safety valve of open political participation, then the 2010
elections could pose a serious problem for the government,
the U.S. Ambassador stated.

5. (SBU) The Prime Minister asserted that Ethiopia's ethnic
diversity demands a vibrant democratic process to met the
aspirations of the people. Democratic values and good
governance must develop in conjunction with economic
development. Some leaders from developing countries assert
that economic prosperity must come first before there can be
development of democratic values. Meles said that for
Ethiopia's own political stability and future survival, there
must be simultaneously a transparent democratic process and
economic progress.

6. (SBU) Meles reviewed the democratic experience in France,
UK and the U.S. and said Ethiopia must learn from other
countries, but must also develop its democratic process at
its own pace based on its unique cultural and social
situation. Meles emphasized that foreign governments and
organizations can play an important role helping to build
capacity and democratic institutions but cautioned that donor
countries cannot dictate, direct, or more specifically,
"micro-manage" Ethiopia's political development like a
colonial power. Democratic development must be uniquely

ADDIS ABAB 00001259 002.2 OF 003


Ethiopian and in accordance with its sovereign rights. More
important, complete foreign domination or influence may not
be in Ethiopia's interest, detracting Ethiopia from
developing democratic institutions and values which will be
sustainable for the people of Ethiopia in the context of
Ethiopia's history and culture.

OPPOSITION PARTIES FACE A ROUGH ROAD
------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Meles expressed concern over opposition development.
The opposition must abide by and support the constitution
and act within the parameters of the constitution.
Opposition parties cannot be a front for insurgent groups or
oppose the interests of the country by advocating for
extremists who seek to undercut the national unity.
Referring to the genocide in Rwanda, Meles said opposition
groups must not tamper with or undercut Ethiopia's delicate
ethnic balance. Another "mille colline" (a reference to the
hotel in Kigali, Rwanda which was in the center of the
genocide) could destroy the country. Ambassador Ling argued
that a weak opposition would lead to a weak democratic state.
Meles countered that a functioning opposition as well as the
development the country will take time. Outside help with
capacity development and institution building will help the
democratic process.

NGO LAW IS CONFUSING AND POTENTIALLY ANTI-DEMOCRATIC
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. (SBU) French Ambassador Gompertz led discussions on the
importance to allow NGOs to operate freely and unrestricted
in Ethiopia because of the work they provide for the
development of Ethiopia. The U.S. Ambassador noted that the
May 6 briefing to NGOs by the Justice Minister (reftel) was
confusing, raising fears that the GoE was trying to
micro-manage foreign NGOs. For instance, any NGO that
receives more than 10 percent of its funding from foreign
sources would be considered a foreign NGO and subject to
severe restrictions and oversight -- even those NGOs which
are distinctly Ethiopian and critical to Ethiopia's political
development (such as the "Ethiopian Elders" or Ethiopian
Human Rights Council). The Justice Minister reportedly told
NGOs that NGOs determined to be "foreign NGOs" based on their
funding levels would be restricted from working on democratic
institution building. This could lead to many U.S. and
foreign NGOs (as well as Ethiopian NGOs which receive foreign
assistance) being marginalized and eliminated from Ethiopia,
and potentially impact on all NGO activities in other areas
such as development, the Ambassadors noted.

9. (SBU) The Prime Minister replied that the purpose of the
new proposed law was to streamline NGO registration, oversee
financial transactions to eliminate fraud and ensure NGOs
were operating within the scope of their mandates. Meles
said if the law is confusing and the international community
has doubts about the draft, then he would delay introduction
of the proposed legislation to the cabinet by two-to-three
weeks to give the Ambassadors an opportunity to read the
proposed draft law and to raise questions in writing with the
Prime Minister within the next week or so. The Ambassadors
noted to the Prime Minister that NGOs would meet to discuss
the new legislation and their assessment will be used by the
Ambassadors for the next meeting on this issue with the Prime
Minister.

OGADEN STILL A HUMANITARIAN CHALLENGE
-------------------------------------

10. (SBU) The U.S. Ambassador highlighted for the Prime
Minister that while food deliveries were good, food
distribution continued to be severely restricted, caught up
in bureaucratic red tape. Further, some NGOs were severely
limited from operating in the region making implementation of
their projects, particularly measles inoculations, difficult
to manage. The Prime Minister said he would discuss the
problems with his staff. He underscored that food
distribution has become more open with military convoys
eliminated in most of the Ogaden. The Prime Minister said
the GoE has lost confidence in some NGOs operating in the
Ogaden because they are exceeding their mandates by operating

ADDIS ABAB 00001259 003.2 OF 003


in areas they had not filed itineraries or not coordinating
with the GoE, and were suspected of coordinating with
insurgents.

11. (SBU) The U.S. Ambassador asked whether the GoE would
ease up on restrictions of these NGOs if they worked with
their respective embassies and complied with the letter of
the law on where to operate and under conditions established
by the government. The Prime Minister responded that this
would be useful. The Ambassadors noted that Medecins Sans
Frontieres (MSF)-Holland and Greece faced the most severe
restrictions, while U.S. NGOs, WFP and the UN faced fewer
problems. But Meles cautioned that some NGOs would never
overcome doubts about their operations because of deep
suspicions of their alleged cooperation with insurgent groups.

COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) The U.S. Ambassador hosted a meeting of key donors
and NGOs on the continued Ogaden food distribution and
inoculation restrictions on May 9. The U.S. has pressed with
Ethiopia's leadership the easing of restrictions on all NGOs.
The worry is that such restrictions, which vary in intensity
across NGOs, could expand to other NGOs and potentially
affect U.S. NGOs. The arrival of a new humanitarian
assistance team will help bring clarity on the extent of
restrictions on NGOs as well as a clearer picture of the
extent of the drought and humanitarian problems in the Ogaden
and other areas of Ethiopia. The U.S. Ambassador will meet
with a cross-section of NGOs on May 16 to review the draft
NGO law and follow-up our concerns directly with the Prime
Minister.

13. (SBU) Moving toward national elections in 2010, the main
focus of the meeting, will be difficult to manage. If the
new NGO law does in fact restrict NGOs from working on
democratic institution building, good governance, judicial
capacity, and conflict resolution, then all foreign
activities would be severely limited to only a few sectors.
The fear would be that the opposition would be marginalized
and restricted so completely that there would be little
political space to operate. The deep frustration we
witnessed during the 2008 local elections could expand and
potentially lead to violence more severe than the aftermath
of the 2005 elections or more recently in Kenya. The Embassy
will actively seek clarification of the new NGO law, urge
changes, and seek closer involvement in supporting democratic
institution building, political space for the opposition, and
greater political expression to ease the growing frustration
and animosities towards the ruling party. End comment.
YAMAMOTO

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC