Cablegate: Ethiopia: Bi-Weekly Report October 13 2006

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1. The following reports compiled over the last two weeks
illustrate the variety of economic, political, and social
developments occurring in Ethiopia.


President Girma Outlines Commitment to Good Governance at
Opening of Parliament

2. President Girma Wolde-Giorgis addressed the opening of
the House of Peoples' Representatives and the House of
Federation October 9 to outline the government's commitment
to building a democratic system in which good governance
prevails. The President admitted that the Ethiopian
democratic culture is a nascent stage but said that measures
will be taken to overcome the current challenges. As an
example, he pointed out that a new press law will be reviewed
for consideration and adoption, which should address past
issues related to freedom of expression. He also said that
the rights and responsibilities of NGOs were not to date
clearly defined and a proclamation will be submitted to the
House to clarify their role. President Girma listed numerous
other matters to be addressed in the upcoming parliamentary
session, including a bill to amend the activities of the
National Electoral Board, anti-terrorism draft legislation,
the establishment of a commodity exchange system, and a law
to establish a women's fund.

Government to Adopt New Anti-Terrorism Legislation

3. In his opening day speech to Parliament October 9,
President Girma Wolde-Giorgis announced that the GOE plans to
adopt new anti-terrorism legislation in response to growing
national, regional and international threats. The President
said the proposed bill is expected to be drafted and ratified
by Parliament in the coming months and will focus on
coordinating anti-terrorism at the national level and
terrorist finance. This anti-terrorism bill will be the
first of its kind for Ethiopia and has been developed with
USG assistance.

Eight People Killed in Religious Disturbances

4. Eight people were killed and over 100 houses and two
churches were burned in clashes between Muslims and Orthodox
Christians in Dembi, Oromiya region. The conflict began on
September 26, the eve of the Ethiopian Orthodox holiday of
Meskel, during which Christians light a traditional holiday
bonfire. Local Muslims complained that the resulting smoke
was seeping into the nearby mosque and asked the Christians
to extinguish the fire. The Christians refused and in an
ensuing argument, a Christian man was hit by a rock allegedly
thrown by a Muslim. Angered by the act, his son retrieved an
automatic weapon and opened fire on Muslims, killing four and
wounding five. The following day at the burial ceremony,
Muslim demonstrators demanded that the shooter be put to
death, to which police responded that the suspect had been
apprehended and just would take its course. Dissatisfied,
the Muslim demonstrators went on a rampage and burned over
100 huts and two churches. The violence continued until
October 4, at the end of which an additional four people had
been killed and 1,500 displaced. Police arrested over 20
suspects involved in the clash. Police are currently
investigating and charges are expected to be presented by
October 20. According to police reports, most those detained
are Muslims belonging to the conservative Quaricha sect.
Elders and religious leaders are working to reconcile the two

Preparations for Local Elections

5. According to the private bi-weekly newspaper "Reporter,"
the National Electoral Board (NEB) said that preparations are
underway to conduct urban zonal, woreda (district), and
kebele elections this year. Acting Registrar of the NEB
Mekonnen Wondimu reported that printing documents for the
elections, budget allocation, collecting detailed data
regarding voting centers, and other related work are moving
forward. As the current NEB board's mandate expires November
9, Mekonnen said that election preparations would start
immediately after a new board is named.

Ethiopian Federal Police Arrest 81 ONC Members

6. On August 23 and 24, Ethiopian federal police arrested 81
opposition Oromo National Congress (ONC) party members in the
village of Tikur Inchini, in the Ambo zone of the Oromiya
region. The arrests were the result of series of
disturbances since May 2005 allegedly organized by ONC
members. The reported disturbances included numerous attacks
on ruling party members or those suspected of being
associated with the government, as well as a number of public

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disturbances and acts of vandalism intended to incite unrest.
Following their arrest, the 81 detainees were charged with
attempting to overthrow the local government, as well as
treason. Their trial was anticipated to begin in early
October. Under Ethiopian law, individuals charged with
treason typically not granted bail, however, by October 11
the majority of the detainees had been released on bail of
6,000 birr/person. Those that remain in detention are
attempting to raise the necessary funds. Upon release the
detainees were not given instructions on future court
appearances or information on the status of their case.
Though the prosecution may continue the case at a later date,
this is not an unheard of police procedure -- arrest, charge,
let out on bail, and allow case to drop -- as a possible
means of intimidation.

Charge Celebrates FGM-Free Zone in Southern Ethiopia

7. Charge attended the third annual Celebration of Whole Body
and Healthy Life and Freedom from Female Genital Excision
October 8 in the Kembatta-Tembaro zone in Southern Ethiopia.
The event celebrated the end of female genital mutilation in
the Kembatta Tembaro zone and reaffirmed the community's
commitment to continue to combat harmful traditional
practices. Charge toured a mother-child health center, a
self-help center, and a new women's business center designed
to strengthen development capacity. The visit culminated in
a moving rally in which thousands of community elders, men,
women, and children honored the rebirth of positive
traditions including arts and dance. KMG has been the
recipient of two grants through the Ambassador's Democracy
and Human Rights Fund, receiving a total of over $15,000 in
2002 and 2004. Since January 2004, the organization's eight
offices in Kembatta-Tembaro zone have reported no known
incidents of the centuries-old practice of genital excision,
which was nearly universal when KMG opened.


USAID Obligates Over $258 Million in FY2006

8. USAID obligated over $258 million in program funds during
FY2006, including over $100 in food aid. By far the largest
amount of bi-lateral aid was in the health sector, including
HIV/AIDS. USAID Ethiopia notified $130 million, which
includes PEPFAR and a small amount of food aid that may
increase during the year, in the FY2007 Congressional Budget
Notification. USAID is working with other USG agencies at
post on the FY2008 budget in line with the operational plan

Gambella Conflict Resolution Project Hold "Peace Concert"

9. USAID's mission director visited Gambella and reported
that USAID funded NGO PACT has been effective in bringing
together different ethnic groups for its conflict prevention
project. For the first time in many years, elders of local
groups are sitting down together to solve ethnically related
problems and issues, and are developing strategies to stop
them from developing in the future. PACT arranged a "Peace
Concert" October 6 which drew upwards of 20,000 people from
different ethnic groups in the area.

EU President Barrosa Visits Addis

10. EU President Jose Manual Barrosa held talks with Prime
Minister Meles October 2. He told journalists the commission
would provide 155 million euro for the implementation of
Ethiopia's road sector development program. Barrosa said the
commission has been providing significant support for
development activities in Ethiopia. Describing the
development cooperation between the commission and Ethiopia
as exemplary, Barrosa indicated that Ethiopia takes the lion
share of the European Development Fund's development aid in
Africa. Barrosa said his talks with Meles were open and


National Antiretroviral Treatment Program Surpasses 50,000

11. The PEPFAR-supported National Antiretroviral Treatment
(ART) program has resulted in the treatment of over 50,000
people. Of these, 39,984 people are still currently on ART
at 159 health facilities around Ethiopia. Overall, close to
50 percent are women and four percent children. To date,
only 0.13 percent have required second line drugs indicating
low levels of treatment failures to first line drugs. This
is also supported by preliminary results from a threshold
antiretroviral drug resistance survey that detected no

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resistance virus.


Influx of Somali Asylum Seekers Into Ethiopia

12. UNHRC reported an influx in Somali asylum seekers into
Ethiopia. As of October 6, there were 1,350 families
(approximately 3000-5000 individuals) of possible refugees
located at five locations in the Bare District along the
Somali border. According to the initial assessment done by
UNHCR staff, the asylum seekers are fleeing inter-clan
conflict and fear of future conflict between the Ethiopian
army and the Union of Islamic Courts.

Refugee Coordinator Holds Successful Donor's Coordination
Group Meeting

13. The Refugee Coordinator's office held its second Donor's
Coordination Group Meeting October 3 with a focus on Somalia.
Representatives from the GOE, five foreign missions, UNHCR,
UNOCHA, the African Union, and two NGOs attended. UNHCR,
UNOCHA, GOE's Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, and
IRC gave presentations on the current situation in Ethiopia
and Somalia as well as contingency planning options for a
possible future influx in refugees.

© Scoop Media

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