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Cablegate: Oromo Opposition Parties Form Coalition

VZCZCXRO8427
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #3373 3521239
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171239Z DEC 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3117
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEPADJ/CJTF HOA
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 003373

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM ASEC ET
SUBJECT: OROMO OPPOSITION PARTIES FORM COALITION

REF: REF: ADDIS 1746

1. (SBU) The Oromo People's Congress (OPC) and the Oromo
Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) recently formed a
coalition which will allow them to combine resources,
increase their strength, and better withstand government
pressure in the run-up to the 2010 elections. The decision
to join forces comes from pressure from their Oromo
supporters to unite. The two parties are already fundraising
together and will be establishing by-laws and a joint
leadership by the end of December.

2. (SBU) The parties claim to share a common history and
similar vision for the future, and their strategy is to use
"quiet resistance" and civil rights awareness-raising
activities to gain support. The OPC and OFDM decided to form
a coalition, vice a merger, for two reasons. First, they
fear that the Ethiopian Government (GoE) will feel threatened
by the merger and attempt to intervene and manipulate the
party, so they are first testing the waters with a coalition.
This assumption is based on the experience of the Coalition
for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party around the 2005
elections. When the CUD formed a coalition the GoE let them
be, but when they started planning a merger the GoE promptly
began to recruit and bribe non-committed individuals within
the party essentially to gut the party from the inside. The
OPC and OFDM leadership feel it would be wise to move
cautiously. Also, because of the political party
registration process, a merger would result in both parties
permanently losing their names and emblems. If the merger
didn't work out, it would be very difficult to return to the
status quo ante. Second, there is not yet a sufficient level
of trust between the two Chairmen. OPC Chairman Merera Gudina
said that OFDM Chairman Bulcha Demeksa has drifted away from
the consensus of the opposition on a few occasions (i.e.
Bulcha sided with the EPRDF in the debate over whether the
nomination list for the National Election Board should be
limited) and is "not always predictable." Though mutual
respect does exist between the two, caution is being taken to
avoid mistakes. The OPC's membership in the United Ethiopian
Democratic Forces (UEDF) coalition will not be affected by
the formation of the OPC/OFDM coalition.

3. (SBU) The recent coalition formed by the OPC and OFDM
will initiate the coming together of opposition parties,
according to OFDM Chairman Bulcha Demeksa. He noted that
opposition parties are "highly demoralized" and in order to
have a chance at defeating the EPRDF each party will have to
sacrifice something for the greater good. OPC Chairman Merera
Gudina stated, "the only game in town is unity." Bulcha
emphasized that the opposition parties are only asking for a
level playing field, and urged donor countries to pressure
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the GoE to open political
space.

4. (SBU) The OPC and OFDM are also part of another Opposition
political coalition, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue in
Ethiopia (FDDE, reftel), which has held weekly internal
meetings for the past two months. They plan to start holding
public discussions by the end of December, and around May
2009 they plan to start work on a Manifesto. Currently the
FDDE is comprised of OPC, OFDM, Southern Ethiopian People's
Democratic Coalition (SEPDC), Ethiopian Social Democratic
Party (ESDP), Arena Tigray (AT), Somali Democratic Alliance
Forces (SDAF), and individual members Seeye Abraha and Negaso
Gidada. (Note: This is the first time that the Tigrayan,
Amhara, and Oromo people have formed a political coalition
within Ethiopia. End Note.) The Unity for Democracy and
Justice (UDJ) party has not joined the coalition yet, but
OFDM Chairman Bulcha Demeksa expects them to soon. Since the
UDJ is largely an Amhara group the FDDE could help them gain
support in non-Amhara regions, and the significant funding
the UDJ receives from the Diaspora would be an asset to the
FDDE. Bulcha said that if the UDJ joins the FDDE and the
Forum emerges as a more explicit political coalition, rather
than a dialogue forum as it is now, it could potentially be a
strong opponent to the EPRDF in the 2010 elections.
YAMAMOTO

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