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Cablegate: Bereket Says Hr 4423 Could Hurt Bilateral Relations

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #1902/01 1931423
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121423Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1517

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 001902

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ET
SUBJECT: BEREKET SAYS HR 4423 COULD HURT BILATERAL RELATIONS


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Bereket Simon, public relations advisor to
Ethiopia's Prime Minister with rank of Minister, told PAO
that
CUDP leaders' request to arrange a meeting with the jailed
CUD
leaders was a positive initiative, which he would support.
After praising the way the Charge had conducted the
bi-lateral
relationship, he argued that HR4423 'was a thorn in the flesh
of
Ethiopia', and 'a development that could affect US-Ethiopia
bilateral relationship' if not managed appropriately. END
SUMMARY.

--------------------
CUDP PRISON CONTACTS
--------------------

2. (SBU) The PAO explained to Bereket that the leaders of the
CUDP had wanted the Mission to intercede in arranging a
meeting including Temesgen Zewde and Ayele Chamiso, with the
CUD leaders in prison. The Charge had raised the issue
towards the end of her last conversation with the Prime
Minister, in the presence of A/S Jendayi Frazer. He told
Bereket that the purpose of the CUDP leaders' visit with the
jailed CUD was to: ascertain whether they accepted the
leadership of Ayele and Temesgen of the CUDP; determine
whether the jailed CUD leaders were in agreement with the
peaceful and democratic political change espoused by the
CUDP;
and determine whether those in jail would publicly disavow
the
radical agenda of the Diaspora Ethiopians, who were bent on
the overthrow of the government.

3. (SBU) The PAO offered the opinion that the CUDP, under the
leadership of Temesgen and Ayele, was making an honest effort
to build Ethiopian democracy as a loyal opposition party, but
that they needed to strengthen their party. Without the
ability of the CUDP leaders to convince the incarcerated CUD
leadership to join their cause, or to make a clean break with
those in jail, and explain why to the electorate and the
Diaspora, they would not be able to consolidate themselves as
a genuine opposition party.

4. (SBU) Bereket indicated that he thought it would be a good
idea for the CUDP leaders to meet with the CUD leaders in
prison, since their doing so in his view, would produce no
harm, and could do some good. He offered to suggest this to
Prime Minister Meles when he returned from Banjul the
following week. The PAO reviewed with Bereket the four names
of the incarcerated leaders to be visited (Hailu Shawel, Dr.
Hailu Araya, Ingr. Gizachew, Yacob Hailemariam). Bereket
asked why the CUDP leaders did not want to meet with Berhanu
Nega. The PAO told him that he felt the CUDP leaders were
convinced that Berhanu Nega would not be supportive of the
conciliatory agenda they were pursuing, and that his actions
in past months had indicated that he was vehemently opposed
to
any type of engagement with the government.

----------------------------------------
YOU GIVE ME ONE ROSE, BUT MANY THORNS...
----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Bereket said that he was very pleased with how the
Ambassador had conducted the relationship between the two
countries, but that the progress of the HR 4423 bill was
viewed by the GOE as 'a thorn in the flesh of Ethiopia'. He
expressed perplexity and disappointment about the U.S.
government's promotion of the bill, and ended his
observations
with a veiled threat. He was perplexed that "the American
government had let the bill get so far in Congress". This
bill in his view, was in the interest of "hardliners".
Someone, he said, had to find a way to tell Congress: "hands
off Ethiopia".

----------------
WHY I AM POUTING
----------------

6. (SBU) He complained to the PAO that Ethiopia had always
acted in concert with U.S. interests. Bereket was
disappointed that the U.S. had often let Ethiopia down when
it
came to receiving support on issues important to them. For
example, the US he said, had not supported Ethiopia's five-
point peace plan in the border dispute with Eritrea. U.S.
reluctance to take Ethiopia's side, in his view, had
emboldened Eritrea's Isaias, and contributed to that
country's
ruler's intransigence on resolving the border issue. Bereket
complained that now, at a crucial time for Ethiopia, his
country was being held to task by the U.S. for a variety of
human rights violations. He reported having followed Ana
Gomes' testimony to the House Subcommittee on Africa, and had
been dismayed by the warm reception she had gotten. Bereket
also cited the fact that USAID in some unspecified report,
had
depicted Ethiopia as a 'failed state', an appellation he felt
particularly unfair, and inaccurate at best. (Note: USAID's
2005 strategy for Ethiopia classified the country as a
"fragile state." End Note) Bereket said that the
International Crisis Group had even maligned Ethiopia in the
past for supporting the TFG in Somalia, while much of what
Ethiopia had done, being with the full knowledge of, and in
concert with the US.

-----------------------------
SHOW ME YOU LOVE ME...OR ELSE
-----------------------------

7. (SBU) The above were illustrative of the types of actions
by the U.S., Bereket told the PAO, that over time
accumulated,
and had led in the past to the Ethiopian government deciding
to, for example, expel the Republican and Democratic election
observer organizations during the May 2005 elections. He
reminded the PAO that Ethiopia is a strategic ally of the
United States and that if the government were to collapse,
then the whole region would fall to fundamentalists. The
issue of HR 4423 had to be addressed politically in his view,
without the Ethiopian government being hauled in front of a
committee. Were this not done, Bereket said, "it could harm
Ethiopia's bilateral relations with the U.S." At the end of
the day, in Bereket's opinion, if Ethiopia felt "pushed into
a
corner, it would act to protect its interests".

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Bereket's ready willingness to have the CUDP leaders
visit the jailed CUD leaders, is indicative of the distance
the regime feels it has come in consolidating its position
and
advancing its agenda. Its strategy has begun to pay off
domestically. A number of editorials in the private media
have
congratulated the regime on its engagement and accommodation.
However, silencing its detractors in the Diaspora has proved
more difficult. As Islamic fundamentalism in Somalia
increases, the EPRDF leadership will most likely play the
terrorism card often, at all levels, to solicit
demonstrations
from the US, that it is a constant and reliable partner in
the
'long war' on the Horn of Africa. END COMMENT.
HUDDLESTON

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