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Cablegate: The Opposition Challenges Prime Minister Meles In

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OO RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDS #3185/01 3020446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 290446Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8349
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 003185

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF, AF/E, AND INR/AA
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND USCENTCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM ET
SUBJECT: THE OPPOSITION CHALLENGES PRIME MINISTER MELES IN
PARLIAMENT


Summary
-------
1. (U) Opposition Parliamentarians offered critical comments
of President Girma Woldegirogis, October 8 remarks at the
opening session of Parliament during the monthly questioning
session of the Prime Minister. UEDF leader and informal
leader of the opposition Beyene Petros, CUD/P leader Temskgen
Zewdie and ODFM leader Bulcha Demeksa struck a common theme
of criticism of the government for not advancing democratic
values. Beyene cited the failure of the interparty talks,
Temeskgen highlighted failed economic policies resulting in
heightened inflation, and Bulcha provided the most pointed
criticism calling on the government to explain the arrests
without due process of scores of Oromo citizens, citing 204
specific cases but hinting that hundreds and perhaps
thousands maybe detained.

2. (U) The Prime Minister responded that the opposition
parties walked out of interparty talks but welcomed them back
if they committed to not leaving talks in the future. He
dropped the condition of expression of apologies as noted by
other ruling EPRDF members. The Prime Minister expressed
concern over inflation and low salaries, but stated that the
economy is improving with nearly 10 percent annual growth.
He cautioned that it would take time to empower the public.
On arrests, the Prime Minister said that suspected OLF and
rebels were detained and that investigations were being
conducted. Finally, he dismissed calls by the opposition to
leave Somalia noting that if Somalia is not stabilized
Ethiopian troops may have to return to Somalia.

3. (U) It was apparent that the questioning period lacked any
drama and unexpected issues. Both sides stated their
familiar positions. Troubling is the lack of engagement and
discussion on how to promote political dialogue. We will
continue to help facilitate discussions between the
opposition and ruling party and plan to meet leaders from
both camps in our regular meetings in the coming days. End
summary.

The Opposition Demands Answers
------------------------------
4. (U) Parliament convened October 23 for questioning of the
Prime Minister. Opposition leaders focused criticism on
President Girma,s opening remarks to Parliament, delivered
October 8, as the basis for critical remarks to the Prime
Minister. UEDF leader and informal leader of the opposition
Beyene Petros listed common opposition themes. He complained
about inflation and the low salaries, especially in the
private sector, calling on the Government to take action. He
noted the failure of the interparty talks which has resulted
in the lack of a dialogue between the ruling party and
opposition on critical legislation such as the a draft press
law expected to be tabled before Parliament in coming weeks.
Beyene also questioned the Prime Minister on human rights and
humanitarian crisis in the Ogaden. He demanded an
explanation of what the government was doing. Beyene
concluded by noting that there was continued conflict among
the various ethnic groups and demanded the government,s
immediate attention to alleviate tensions.

5. (U) CUDP leader Temesgen Zewdie focused on what he called
the failed economic policies of the government. He noted
that market interference particularly in forcing farmers to
sell their food products undermined sound and basic economic
principles. He argued that unemployment and the failure to
create jobs were not being addressed, adding to the suffering
of the public. Temesgen questioned the absence of democratic
values citing the passage of the Broadcast law and the debate
on the draft Press Law without opposition input. Finally,
Temesgen called for Ethiopia,s soldiers to return from
Somalia and criticized the government for following too
closely the African Union. He said these are Ethiopian
troops and questioned what the AU was doing.

6. (U) OFDM leader Bulcha Demeksa was the most vocal in
criticism of the government for unexplained arrests of 204
Oromos in recent weeks. He speculated that there could be

ADDIS ABAB 00003185 002 OF 003


hundreds and perhaps thousands, and asked why Oromos were
being detained without due process. He demanded an open and
transparent legal process.

The Prime Minister Responds
---------------------------

7. The Prime Minister responded in a very methodical manner
addressing each point. Meles defended the President,s
speech, saying that it clearly touched on the issues raised
by the opposition. First, Prime Minister Meles said the
government is committed to democracy and good governance. He
underscored the responsibility of the government to address
questions of fighting corruption and promoting good
governance. He admitted that Ethiopia can and needs to make
improvements, noting that democracy is still a &work in
process,8 but the path that the government is following is
correct and is addressing problems. It will take time, he
cautioned.

8. (U) On interparty talks, the Prime Minister said it was
the opposition that dropped out of the process. He called on
the opposition to return with the caveat that they commit
themselves to working with the ruling party and not
boycotting future discussions. He dropped the condition of
apology for restarting talks, which EPRDF Central Committee
member Bereket Simon has insisted on for the past several
months. On the passage of the Broadcast Law, the Prime
Minister said the opposition did have an opportunity to
adjust the drafts, make recommendations and add amendments,
but ultimately, the law needed to move forward.

9. (U) The Prime Minister addressed economic policies by
noting that the government is committed to fighting poverty
and improve productivity. He noted that the government needs
to focus on building capacity and improving structures and
institutions. Fighting corruption remains important. He
added that government oversight is sometimes necessary to
correct problems and prevent the public good from being
harmed. Faith that the market will always make correct
decisions is not accurate and that government oversight is
always needed to maximize efficiencies. If economic
development fails, the government must intervene to help
regulate and promote progress. All countries engage in
market adjustments. On low private sector salaries, the
Prime Minister said the government cannot and must not
interfere because it could make the situation worse. Meles
argued that companies make rational decisions , government
interference could have negative impacts, and oil and farm
prices are rising and farm prices are rising. Still, the
Prime Minister stated that "We must try to keep prices down."

10. (U) Somalia is an issue of national security, the Prime
Minister argued. Ethiopia must not leave until there is
order or else Ethiopian troops may be called on to return.
On the Ogaden, the ONLF has undermined security. National
Security advisor Abey Tsehaye led efforts to reach out to the
ONLF. Meles claimed that the GoE had sought to meet the ONLF
overseas but the ONLF refused to meet in direct discussions.
There was no dialogue or effort by the ONLF to meet. "They
killed innocent people in the Ogaden," Meles stated, "but we
continue to hold out the option of direct talks with the
ONLF. But the ONLF must abide by the constitution and
peaceful efforts."

11. (U) On the arrests of Oromos, the Prime Minister argued
that only OLF supporters and rebels were being detained and
were under investigation. Like the ONLF, the Prime Minister
said the government reached out to the OLF to meet with them.
The government remains open but the OLF must abide by the
constitution. If there is evidence of wrongdoing we will
prosecute, Meles ended.

COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) Both sides stated their respective positions
without much drama or new issues raised. The questioning

ADDIS ABAB 00003185 003 OF 003


period is defined to help the ruling party. There is no
follow-up questions and the opposition is limited in the time
to ask questions while the Prime Minister is not limited.
The lack of inter-party dialogue is a concern and a priority
for the Embassy. Post will continue to facilitate talks
through our regular discussions.
YAMAMOTO

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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