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Cablegate: With Cso Law, Goe Tells Donors to Back Off

VZCZCXRO0908
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #3100 3190903
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 140903Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2731
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEPADJ/CJTF HOA IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 003100

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV EAID PHUM ET
SUBJECT: WITH CSO LAW, GOE TELLS DONORS TO BACK OFF

REF: A. ADDIS 2846 (AND PREVIOUS)
B. GONZALES-AF/E E-MAIL NOV. 10
C. ADDIS 2482

1. (U) After months of U.S. and donor engagement (Ref. A)
with the Ethiopian Government (GoE) to mitigate the impact of
a draft Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law), the
GoE released on November 7 what is expected to be the final
draft of the law before it is submitted to Parliament. This
fourth draft (Ref. B) does not incorporate any of the changes
requested or address any of the concerns raised by successive
waves of donor ambassadors and principals from capitals. In
fact, the only substantive change made actually reverses the
reduced criminal penalties inserted into the third draft,
raising fine and imprisonment penalties higher than ever
previously proposed. All other major provisions of concern
to the USG, Ethiopian civil society, and other donors remain
unchanged, including the 10 percent funding threshold over
which CSOs will be considered "foreign," the prohibition on
administrative expenses exceeding 30 percent, the prohibition
on "foreign" CSOs from engaging in human rights, democratic
rights, gender equality, conflict resolution, promoting the
efficiency of law enforcement, or children's or disabled
rights.

2. (U) While this latest version has not yet been formally
submitted to Parliament, we expect the Council of Ministers
to endorse the new text at its standing meeting on November
14 or 21 before submitting it to Parliament. Once submitted
to Parliament, the House will deliberate on the draft law
(commonly known as the first reading) and will send it to the
appropriate committee(s) for further debate. At this point,
the committee will conduct stakeholder hearings, according to
Speaker Teshome Toga. Following any amendments by the
committee, the draft will be re-presented to the House for
further deliberation (the second reading). In the rare event
that the House believes that further deliberation is
necessary, it may pass the draft back to the committee.
Otherwise it will present the draft for a vote.

3. (SBU) Donor representatives throughout Addis Ababa view
the GoE's rejection of all donor requested amendments and the
toughened penalties in the third draft as a direct affront to
the international community. The UK, French, and U.S.
ambassadors are extremely disappointed with the latest draft
which ignores the specific points of concerned raised by the
ambassadors over a series of meetings with the Prime
Minister. Much like was done with the Press Law, in this
case too the GoE made minor cosmetic amendments to the early
draft text, but when faced with sustained international
engagement to mitigate the remaining negative elements, the
Ethiopian executive again revised the text, stripping out
some earlier improvements and toughening the ultimate text.
We, like our donor partners in Ethiopia, clearly view the
GoE's latest draft as a clear message that the GoE has
decided its course of action and donors should back off.
While there remains a possibility that Parliament could
positively amend the draft before making the CSO proclamation
into law, recent history with similarly contentious laws has
shown that such is unlikely. Embassy Addis Ababa will
continue to engage senior GoE and Parliamentary officials
about our concerns regarding the implications of this bill
and will continue to leverage visits by USG principals to do
the same. At the same time, we again encourage Washington to
consider releasing a statement in coordination with major
European partners, including the UK and France, on the CSO
law along the lines of that proposed in Ref. C.
YAMAMOTO

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