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Cablegate: Unity for Democracy & Justice (Udj): Keeping Hope For

VZCZCXRO2885
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1733/01 1771411
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251411Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1094
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001733

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM ET
SUBJECT: UNITY FOR DEMOCRACY & JUSTICE (UDJ): KEEPING HOPE FOR
ETHIOPIAN DEMOCRACY ALIVE

REF: ADDIS 145

SUMMARY
--------

1. (SBU) On June 24, 2008 PolCouns met with Dr. Yacob Hailemariam,
the Head of Foreign Affairs of the newly formed opposition political
party, Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ). UDJ is unique as its
supporters represent most major ethnic groups and its leadership is
composed of most major leaders from the former Coalition for Unity
and Democracy (CUD), which successfully campaigned and saw a
significant victory in the 2005 elections. After its first meeting
was shut down by the federal police, UDJ managed to hold its
founding Congress on June 18, 2008.

2. (SBU) The party's platform is based on three major principles: 1)
national appeal; 2) democratic values; and 3) peaceful means of
struggle. UDJ expressed a willingness to join an opposition
coalition in the long-term, but only with non-violent groups that
respect the constitution of the FDRE. UDJ also expressed concern
that the National Electoral Board (NEB) and ruling Ethiopian
People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) may attempt to block
finalization of its party registration process. UDJ appealed to the
USG to advocate for a re-opening of political space to ensure that
the 2010 elections are not a repeat of the 2005 electoral turmoil.
If the upcoming elections are not free and fair, Dr. Yacob believes
the consequences will be violent and dire for the country.


WHAT MAKES UDJ DIFFERENT: THE PARTY PLATFORM
---------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) UDJ is a national party, not an ethnic one, with members
from Amhara, Oromiya, Tigray, Somali, Southern Nations, and Afar
regions. Dr. Yacob strongly criticizes the EPDRF's tactics of
injecting ethnic loyalties into politics, citing how it has
dangerously divided the country. Since the party is relatively new
and still is not finally registered with the NEB, the amount of
outreach UDJ is able to do is modest; Dr. Yacob admits there is much
room for improvement. But one of the party's first priorities after
becoming registered is to open offices throughout Ethiopia, paying
careful attention to include those not typically represented,
including regions on the periphery, Muslims, the youth, and women
(it is notable that the UDJ chairperson is a woman, Birtukan
Midekssa). Although there are some Muslim members, UDJ looks to
target greater Muslim representation.

4. (U) UDJ is highly committed to democratic principles, Dr. Yacob
argued. In addition to advocating democratic values and human
rights in Ethiopia, as do many opposition parties, Dr. Yacob argued
that the party itself is run by far more democratic principles and
procedures than other political parties. Every member has a right
to express his or her opinions without sanctions for dissent.

5. (U) Dr. Yacob emphasized that UDJ is committed to peaceful means
of struggle and is categorically non-violent. "We don't believe
government should be changed by the gun," Dr. Yacob stated. "Even if
armed struggle were feasible," he noted, "we do not accept it as a
tactic as it would have devastating impacts for the country." He
was also adamant about the UDJ not being affiliated with other
opposition groups that have expressed willingness to employ violence
as a political tactic. Dr. Yacob was clear in noting that UDJ has
no contact with either armed insurgent groups like the Oromo
Liberation Front (OLF) or Dr. Berhanu Nega, 2005 mayor-elect of
Addis Ababa who reportedly recently initiated dialogue with the
OLF.


WILL SEPARATE OPPOSITION GROUPS SPLIT THE VOTE?
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (SBU) When asked about the potential for allying with other
opposition parties, Dr. Yacob thought it was too ambitious in the
short-term since UDJ is still a fledgling group. But in the
long-term, he saw great potential for a large-scale opposition
coalition to dislodge the EDPRF in the 2010 elections. However,
there were many caveats to UDJ joining a coalition. Dr. Yacob
emphasized that UDJ is only willing to ally with parties that
subscribe to its own core values; which essentially leaves no room
for coalitions with parties that do not adhere to a strict policy of
non-violence. Still, he acknowledged that forming a coalition with
other opposition groups in the medium term may prove an attractive
option to the electorate -- as CUD did in 2005 -- and would
eliminate the threat of splitting the vote among too many small
groups

ADDIS ABAB 00001733 002 OF 002


POTENTIAL ROADBLOCK: THE NEB
-----------------------------

7. (SBU) UDJ has submitted its application to the NEB and is
currently awaiting final registration. Dr. Yacob insisted that
there should be no reason for the NEB to reject or even postpone the
application, since UDJ was very meticulous about doing everything
according to the law. Therefore, a rejection of UDJ's application
would be a "flagrant violation of the law," according to Dr. Yacob.
UDJ is willing to make whatever amendments the NEB requires, but the
party is very concerned about being thwarted by the NEB and EPDRF.

WHAT CAN THE USG DO FOR ETHIOPIA'S DEMOCRATIZATION?
--------------------------------------------- ------

8. (SBU) Dr. Yacob asked the USG to appeal to EPDRF to re-open
political space to ensure that the 2010 elections will be free and
fair. "This country is becoming a police state," he said, "and if
the EPDRF listens to anyone, it's the U.S." He reiterated several
times throughout the meeting that UDJ only wants to come to power
through democratic means, and he asked the USG to help ensure that
that would be possible.

9. (SBU) Dr. Yacob also appealed to PolCouns to ensure that UDJ's
application was fairly and neutrally considered by the NEB. PolCouns
assured Yacob that he and the Ambassador would highlight to the NEB
in their July 1 meeting that we are watching UDJ's registration
process and expect it to be quick and transparent.

10. (SBU) Dr. Yacob believed that the USG never identified its
interests within the former CUD party. Pointing out that many of
the UDJ leaders were educated in America and many of their children
are U.S. citizens, he attempted to illustrate how closely aligned
UDJ is with U.S. interests. "We are Jeffersonian Democrats; Meles
is a Communist," he stated. He added that UDJ only wants the same
democratic principles for Ethiopia on which the U.S. was founded.


GRIM PREDICTIONS IF 2010 ELECTIONS ARE REPEAT OF 2005
--------------------------------------------- ---------

11. (SBU) When asked to predict the consequences of 2010 elections
if the ruling party does not alter its current tactics of harassment
and intimidation, Dr. Yacob bluntly stated, "If we don't have free
elections in 2010, I don't know what will happen to this country."
However, he was certain there would be a violent reaction from
voters. Increased poverty, food shortages, and inflation are all
important issues at stake in the upcoming elections. They are also
likely to exacerbate people's anger if they believe elections were
not free and fair, leading to a violent backlash.


COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) Within the confines of Ethiopia's ever-shrinking political
space, UDJ has somehow found enough room to form a truly national
opposition party. UDJ is a party comprised of well-educated,
impressive leaders espousing democratic principles, and reaching
beyond the Ethiopian tradition of ethnic loyalties or cults of
personality. It is definitely a step in the right direction for
Ethiopian politics, and will undoubtedly provide an attractive
alternative to voters in 2010.

YAMAMOTO

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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