Search

 

Cablegate: Ambassador Sets Democratic Space Marker With

VZCZCXRO6055
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1592/01 1630444
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 110444Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0912
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE 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
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 001592

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PBTS ET
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR SETS DEMOCRATIC SPACE MARKER WITH
TIGRAY'S CENTRAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS

REF: A. ADDIS 1259
B. ADDIS 1223

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) In a June 3-4 visit to Tigray, Ambassador conveyed a
clear message of concern over political space and the need
for the core ruling party, the Tigrean People's Liberation
Front (TPLF), to ease its stranglehold on civil society and
the political opposition in order to maintain stability in
Ethiopia. While the Ambassador, accompanied by the French
and UK Ambassadors, had noted his concerns on May 9 to Prime
Minister Meles (ref. A), the meetings with five TPLF Central
Committee members in Tigray further aimed to insert into the
Central Committee's discussions international concern about
Ethiopia's stability in the absence of political openings and
the likely development impacts of pending civil society
legislation (ref. B). Ambassador also took advantage of the
opportunity to urge Ethiopia to shift its stance on the
Ethiopia-Eritrea border to one focused on acceptance of
"demarcation" to be implemented through dialogue, instead of
the current focus on dialogue in place of the
Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission's (EEBC) "virtual"
demarcation directive. End Summary.

2. (U) The Ambassador and Political Counselor paid courtesy
visits on five TPLF Central Committee members in Ethiopia's
Tigray region June 3-4. In addition to courtesy calls on
Tigray Regional Vice President Abadi Zemo, the Tigray
region's TPLF Party President Tewodros Hagos, Speaker of the
House of the Tigray Regional Council Wolderufael Alemayehu,
and Mayor of Mekele Fisseha Zerihun, the Ambassador and USAID
Director spent five hours with TPLF Central Committee member
Teklewoini Assefa who is also the Executive Director of the
TPLF's NGO the Relief Society of Tigray (REST).

AMBASSADOR TELLS CENTRAL COMMITTEE: STABILITY IS AT STAKE
--------------------------------------------- ------------

3. (SBU) Ambassador Yamamoto raised U.S. and international
concerns over the stability implications of the mounting
political frustration stemming from the lack of opposition
supporters' ability to genuinely express their dissent with
the ruling party. The Ambassador stressed the USG's desire
to work with Ethiopian political parties and the National
Electoral Board to improve democratic institutions in
Ethiopia. Abadi was clear that Ethiopia is learning lessons
from other African countries' failed attempts to emulate
western-style democracy. Abadi argued that the "Ethiopian
opposition wants democracy as they see it in the West, but
that won't work." "If we don't address the fundamental
problems, our strategy will not succeed," he continued "but
our strategy is only intended for a few years until we can
overcome the bottleneck." "Without the EPRDF," Abadi
concluded "Ethiopia will revert to where it was 30 years
ago." The Ambassador retorted that it is imperative that the
people feel that their voices are heard and their civil
rights are respected.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador expressed specific concern to
regional Vice President Abadi, Speaker Wolderufael, and REST
Executive Director Teklewoini that the Ethiopian Government's
(GoE) draft civil society organizations (CSO) law is
"confusing, restricts foreign assistance programs and
operations" and may impact a huge portion of the $700 million
in U.S. assistance given to Ethiopia. Having received clear
talking points from the ruling party, both Abadi and
Teklewoini argued that the law will not impact genuine
development-oriented NGOs or activities, and would actually
increase the impacts of foreign assistance. Both were clear
that the law would eliminate foreign funding to "advocacy"
efforts as such activities are the exclusive right of
Ethiopian citizens and should not be influenced by
foreigners. Abadi was clear that "if foreign assistance does
not contribute to development efforts or add value to
Ethiopia, it should be ended." As his hard-line credentials
emerged, Abadi argued that "no one can push a country around
to make it do what it doesn't want" and "serious donors will
change the focus of their assistance to contribute to real
development." Both Abadi and Teklewoini dismissed Ethiopian,
as well as international, NGOs' concerns as "emotional

ADDIS ABAB 00001592 002 OF 003


responses" from organizations solely focused on bringing in
more money for their programs. Teklewoini argued that
opposition political parties have, and will continue to,
receive capacity building support from NGOs and other groups.
Teklewoini saw no problem with the opposition, but he
cautioned that the financial support the opposition received
from the diaspora in the U.S. was wrong and needed to be
monitored.

BORDER: PRESS TO IMPLEMENT DEMARCATION THROUGH DIALOGUE
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) Amb was told over dinner by Vice President Abadi
Zemo and USAID sponsored NGO (Relief Society of Tigray) chief
Teklewoini Assefa, both central committee members of the
TPLF, that the Eritrea problem was severely hurting
investment and economic development in Tigray. They wanted
the border conflict ended peacefully because they saw another
war as far worse, for now. They severely criticized the UN
and international community for not helping to resolve the
conflict through PM Meles, constructive dialogue approach
which would resolve the consequences of demarcation and allow
both sides to come to terms on a demarcation plan that would
work and avoid war. Amb stated that the EEBC made a decision
and if Ethiopia clearly came out in favor of &demarcation8
and implementing a demarcation plan through dialogue, that
could have some positive effect on the UN which sees the EEBC
decision as the only solution.

CENTRAL COMMITTEE PERSONALITIES
-------------------------------

7. (SBU) Although Ambassador sought to meet with Tigray
Regional President and TPLF Central Committee member Tsegay
Berhe, Tsegaye was called to Addis Ababa the day before the
visit. Still, Ambassador was able to meet with the following
TPLF Central Committee members resident in Tigray:

-- Abadi Zemo - Tigray Regional Vice President: Ato Abadi
fought as a member of the TPLF during the struggle to topple
the Derg. He lost his left arm in combat. Abadi has a
strong command of English and clearly conveys TPLF talking
points through a tone suggesting a strong personal support
for their positions. Abadi appears in his mid-fifties, wears
glasses, and drinks whiskey (Johnny Walker black label was
served at dinner).

-- Teklewoini Assefa - Executive Director of the Relief
Society of Tigray (REST): Ato Teklewoini met Prime Minister
Meles and other TPLF founders while a student at Addis Ababa
University (AAU) in the early 1970s where he studies physical
sciences. When the Derg came to power, he left AAU before
graduating and taught high school science in Asmara. As a
TPLF combatant, Teklewoini lost his right ring finger above
the second knuckle. From the early-1980s, Teklewoini focused
his work on the TPLF's development/relief organization, the
Relief Society of Tigray. Teklewoini was intent in noting
that before becoming Senior NSC Director for Africa in
Washington in the 1990s, Gail Smith worked for three years
for REST, working, eating, and sleeping with the TPLF's
relief arm. Teklewoini also noted that USAID began funneling
humanitarian and relief assistance through REST in 1985 --
six years before the TPLF came to power -- to respond to the
needs of the Ethiopian people in TPLF-controlled territory in
Ethiopia. While historically a strong TPLF-supporter,
Teklewoini is reported to have only become a member of the
Central Committee in 2001 when he became a vocal supporter of
the TPLF taking a harsh stance against those who opposed
Meles in the party's historic 2001 rift. This perception was
reinforced when, in response to PolChief's inquiry of his
view of former Central Committee members Seeye Abraha and
Gebru Asrat, Teklewoini aggressively dismissed the two as
meaningless "dead wood" that never sink and keep popping back
up. While a close AmCit NGO official had conveyed to Post
that Teklewoini had grave reservations about the draft CSO
law, his staunch support for the draft as conveyed to
Ambassador demonstrates his commitment to, and the discipline
within, the party. Teklewoini is a roughly 60 year old,
approximately 5' 5" man with impeccable English, who eschewed
Johnny Walker for red wine.

-- Wolderufael Alemayehu - Speaker of the House of the Tigray

ADDIS ABAB 00001592 003 OF 003


Regional Council: Perhaps a strong and/or compelling leader
in his native tongue or a commanding force on local issues,
but Ato Wolderufael was a quiet and reserved interlocutor
with Ambassador. While relatively well informed about major
themes in the bilateral dialogue, Wolderufael delivered the
party's talking points but lacked passion or grit. Instead
of refuting the Ambassador's pointed comments of concern over
political space, Wolderufael simply replied with
dispassionate statements about free and fair elections and
the rule of law in Ethiopia.

-- Tewodros Hagos - Tigray region's TPLF Party President:
Certainly the party leader, when Ato Tewodros entered the
room, all other party members stood and greeted him like a
godfather. Executive Director of REST before Teklewoini,
Tewodros now focuses his efforts on internal TPLF party
strengthening and outreach. While Teklewoini aggressively
dismissed expelled former Central Committee members Seeye and
Gebru, Tewodros delivered a much more nuanced and subtle
argument against the two -- equally as damning yet delivered
with the eloquence of a clear party leader.

-- Fisseha Zerihun - Mayor of Mekele: Formerly the Mayor of
Dire Dawa, Ato Fisseha only recently replaced Kidusan Nega
(Sebhat Nega's sister) as Mayor of Mekele. Perhaps that
explains his early and frequent deference to his technical
staff to reply to simple questions on local dynamics.
Regardless, Fisseha's lack of awareness on national and
bilateral themes combined with his detached engagement
suggest that the underweight forty-something mayor with
strong-yet-unpolished English is a less than wholly
influential leader.

COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) The purpose of Ambassador's trip to Mekele -- to
convey U.S. and international concerns about political space
in the run-up to 2010 national elections and insert news of
this concern into the TPLF Central Committee's discussions --
was certainly achieved. The visit showed Wolderufael and
Fisseha to be marginal players, Tewodros to be influential,
Abadi to be a hard-liner, and Teklewoini a potential advocate
(due to REST's receipt of roughly $30 million per year in
U.S. food aid) as Post and the USG engage Ethiopia's ruling
elites to prompt democratic reforms. The visit made clear to
Post that the TPLF has redoubled efforts to maintain party
discipline in support of the fast moving CSO law. Ambassador
and Post will continue to seek out new and creative ways to
further convey U.S. regional stability concerns to ruling
party officials to help encourage a re-opening of Ethiopia's
political space before its closure prompts increased domestic
instability as the country approaches its next major
political test in the 2010 national elections. 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