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Cablegate: Eprdf Moves to Further Strip Power of Former Cudp

VZCZCXRO1111
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1531/01 1561437
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041437Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0842
INFO RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY 0119
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001531

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E, DRL FOR SJOSEPH
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND CENTCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV EAID PHUM KJUS ET
SUBJECT: EPRDF MOVES TO FURTHER STRIP POWER OF FORMER CUDP

REF: ADDIS ABABA 00145

ADDIS ABAB 00001531 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) At the May 21 quarterly address by PM Meles Zenawi
to Parliament, leader of the former Coalition for Unity and
Democracy Party (CUDP), Temesgen Zewdie, attempted to present
his response and questions following the PM's speech, as is
traditionally allowed for party leaders. However, before he
could complete his question, which was to be about recent
reports of Ethiopian farm land along the Ethio-Sudanese
border being confiscated by Sudanese military groups, he was
cut off by the Speaker and told that he will not be allowed
to address Parliament.

2. (SBU) In a May 22 meeting with Poloff, Temesgen explained
that following the May 21 Parliamentary session he was called
into the office of chief Ethiopian People's Revolutionary
Democratic Forces (EPRDF) ruling party whip Shiferaw Jarso.
Shiferaw allegedly told Temesgen that he and those
approximately 40 MPs that are aligned with him will no longer
be allowed to sit on standing committees and Temesgen will no
longer have the right (unless special permission is granted)
to address Parliament, due to the fact that he no longer
represents a block of over 10 MPs with a registered party
name - the two key requirements for such privileges in
Parliament. (Note: In January the National Electoral Board of
Ethiopia (NEBE) granted the CUDP name to Temesgen's nemesis
Ayele Chamisso who is not a member of Parliament and has the
support of only two MPs (reftel). On February 14, Temesgen
and 40 other MPs elected under the CUDP name signed a letter
that they are not aligned with Ayele Chamisso. End Note.)
Shiferaw told Temesgen that since he and his followers had
renounced the party name under which they had been elected,
they would from then on be considered as non-aligned
individual MPs. Shiferaw also instructed Temesgen to vacate
his office in Parliament as such is a privilege reserved only
for the leaders of recognized parties or blocs. (Note: Of
the remaining 71 seats won by the CUDP in the 2005 election,
only 2 have declared allegiance to Ayele, approximately 20
aligned with United Ethiopian Democratic Party (UEDP-Medhin)
party leader Lidetu Ayalew, and the remaining either never
took their seat in Parliament, or later fled the country. End
Note.) Temesgen further told Poloff that following the
meeting with Shiferaw, he was later called into the office of
the Speaker of Parliament, Teshome Toga, and told the same.

3. (SBU) Temesgen reported that he later heard from Oromo
Federal Democratic Movement (OFDM) party leader Bulcha
Demeksa, saying that he and his party had also been stripped
of these rights, due to the fact that he had less than 10 MPs
aligned with his party (following the death or disappearance
of several MPs in the last three years). Additionally, Dr.
Beyene Petros, leader of the United Ethiopian Democratic
Forces (UEDF), said that he had been similarly threatened and
was told that his party officially has only 12 MPs (just over
the necessary threshold), not the 48 he claims. Teshome
explained that the other 36 MPs are considered to be aligned
with Tolossa Tesfaye of the Oromo National Congress (ONC),
not UEDF coalition partner and head of the Oromo Peoples
Congress, Dr. Merera Gudina. (Note: In reality, Tolossa only
has one MP that has pledged allegiance to him - the rest have
pledged support to Dr. Merera and the UEDF. End Note.)

4. (SBU) COMMENT: The EPRDF's move to strip Temesgen and his
followers, as well as the OFDM, of their party rights in
Parliament is the latest in a long series of maneuvering to
cut Ethiopian opposition parties off at the knees. Though
the EPRDF now employs more subtle techniques, such as using
the NEBE to weaken parties by asigning opposition party names
to EPRDF-associated "opposition" groups, the effect on
opposition parties is as crippling as jailing party leaders.
The net effect to Parliament is very little organized
opposition to the EPRDF - Ayele (himself not an MP) and
Tolossa have nearly no following, leaving only Lidetu Ayalew
as the primary opposition party leader in Parliament, and
most voters would no longer consider him "opposition" because
of his strong support for the EPRDF. The remaining seats won
by the opposition are filled by what are now considered
"independent" MPs, or were filled in the recent April
by-elections by the EPRDF in the by-elections (for those
seats not occupied or vacated later by fleeing MPs). As the
2010 federal elections draw closer, the EPRDF continues to
progressively show less and less tolerance for political
opposition. Political space continues to shrink, painting a

ADDIS ABAB 00001531 002.2 OF 002


very dim picture for anything resembling a democratic system
or free elections on the horizon. The US, UK and French
Ambassadors stressed the need for political space with the
PM. Ambassador stressed in a meeting of Ambassadors hosted
by the UN that if a tough coordinated effort is not initiated
by the entire diplomatic corps now, the 2010 elections will
not see much opposition gain. Frustration will increase and
violence will be highly likely. END COMMENT.
YAMAMOTO

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