WikiLeaks – Attempted coup or opposition round-up?
The Ethiopian Government (GoE) announced on April 25 that it had arrested 35 individuals affiliated with the overseas-based opposition movement “Ginbot 7” who were planning a “terrorist attack” in Addis Ababa. The Government was quick to clarify that it disrupted a “terrorist attack” not a “coup” as had been reported by some media outlets. Without any specific information or evidence substantiating the allegations, we — and many diplomatic colleagues with whom we have spoken — assess the move as another crackdown by the GoE on pro-opposition individuals within the military and civil service consistent with other such acts in recent years. While the GoE’s claims may ultimately prove true, in the absence of specific and credible information, this latest round of arrests strikes us and many Ethiopia watchers in Addis as another move by the GoE to justify the arrest of political dissenters. The GoE has a robust record since December 2006 of doing so within the military. Ref. A offers insights into GoE moves to purge the civil service of those who support the opposition, and even those who do not explicitly support the ruling party, and Ref. B details a late-October 2008 series of arrests of ethnic Oromos allegedly for being involved in plans by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to conduct terrorist attacks in Ethiopia. Apart from his fiery rhetoric, we have no reason to believe that the asserted links between Berhanu Nega and the alleged plans for attacks are credible. Pol/Econ Chief spoke with Berhanu’s AmCit wife, Dr. Nardos Minassie, who claimed to be completely unaware of the allegations or media reports surrounding her husband and reported being fine, staying at home, and unaffected by the incident.
(C) As have many within the Embassy, our counterparts at the British Embassy also assess that this current round of arrests are likely a variation on the theme established with the arrests reported in Ref. B. Despite the GoE’s claim of having disrupted such a large alleged plot to terrorize the capital city, we have not observed any overt increase in the security presence around the capital. While we will continue to track this case as it develops, we expect that the current case will prove to be more one of political retaliation to further entrench the stifling of political opposition as Ethiopian eyes shift toward the 2010 national elections rather than one of a legitimate effort by the opposition to disrupt life in the capital or target the regime.
Wikileaks – US calls Meles’s development “mythic economic growth”
Wikileaks – US calls Meles’s development “mythic economic growth”
After a brief meeting with Senator Inhofe and his delegation on April 7 (septel), Prime Minister Meles took Ambassador to the side and privately raised three issues: 1) the need to “improve” the State Department Human Rights Report (HRR), which he felt was filled with errors; 2) allegations that the U.S. Embassy leaked Ethiopia’s draft counterterrorism law to Human Rights Watch (HRW); and 3) the need for senior-level bilateral meetings to resolve misunderstandings and enhance U.S.-Ethiopia relations.Meles’ increasingly aggressive responses to pro forma USG actions (such as the HRR, language in the 2007 appropriations bill, etc.) in recent months almost certainly stems from GoE anxiety over how the Obama Administration may engage Ethiopia. At the same time, the Prime Minister’s obstinacy on cases like Birtukan’s, the CSO law, mythic economic growth, and Ethiopia’s human rights practices — to name but a few — genuinely reflect the GoE’s entrenchment in the country’s current trajectory which is increasingly at odds with U.S. interests and values in both the political and economic realms. As such, we continue to advocate for senior level bilateral meetings as soon as the AF Assistant Secretary is in place. They make sense and would help ease Ethiopia’s anxieties and underscore our concerns as well as reinforce our support for the relationship.
WikiLeaks – Torture inside Ethiopia’s jails
Recent interviews with individuals who have been held in non-traditional detention facilities have shed anecdotal light on beatings and abuse by Ethiopian security officials against civilians in country. While we cannot confirm the scope or persistence of such mistreatment, these first-hand reports do offer a unique insight into abuse of detainees and dynamics regarding Ethiopia’s non-traditional detention facilities. A handful of released political and other prisoners in Ethiopia have recently reported to PolOff that they and other detainees have been tortured in police station jails in attempts by security officials to elicit confessions before cases go to trial. Depending on the detainee, abuses reported include being blindfolded and hung by the wrists for several hours, bound by chains and beaten, held in solitary confinement for several days to weeks or months, subjected to mental torture such as harassment and humiliation, forced to stand for over 16 hours, and having heavy objects hung from one’s genitalia (males). Based on what our sources have reported, torture seems to be more common at police station detention centers (most notably Ma-ekelawi police station in Addis Ababa), while less is reported at Kaliti prison. Released prisoners have also reported to PolOff cases of prisoners being detained for several years without being charged and without trial, prisoners held in jails despite having been released by the courts, and police interference with court proceedings.
WikiLeaks – Analysis of Meles’s Behavior
Finally, Meles desperately wants recognition and public accolades for his achievements, consistently focusing us on his accomplishments while being relatively more willing to forego appreciation while efforts remain in process. We hope that this analysis provides useful insights for USG interlocutors who will engage the Prime Minister. Meles’s ISTJ type suggests very clearly that the most persuasive arguments to make with the Prime Minister to sway his decisions will be those that are delivered privately, focused on an end objective that he supports or values, highly specific and detailed, and delivered in a clear, linear fashion. Further, if our message is one that he is likely to oppose, our arguments will be much more effective if delivered in a way that emphasize the objective — Meles particularly understands and appreciates arguments that clearly reflect the explicit pursuit of national interests. Further, USG interlocutors must be thoroughly prepared with details to retort Meles’s detailed responses to initial USG points.
WikiLeaks – US wouldn’t consider Ethiopia an important ally
While we have corrected Prime Minister Meles’s misperceptions on night vision goggles and informed him of our efforts to discuss and correct problems noted in our human rights report, the continued raising of these issues underscore the anxiety by the Prime Minister and his government that the U.S. posture toward Ethiopia would become tougher or worse, and that the U.S. would not consider Ethiopia an important ally in the region. It is also clear that while Meles desires improved relations, he also wants to establish bilateral relations on his own terms in which the U.S. would give Ethiopia space as it advances human rights and democracy as well as economic development according to its own policy objectives.
WikiLeaks: Meles tries to influence US policy change
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi called in Ambassador February 25 to discuss Ethiopia’s perception that the U.S. has taken a tougher policy shift towards Ethiopia, stressing human rights concerns over shared objectives on regional stability, counterterrorism and development. The meeting reinforced Foreign Minister Seyoum’s February 20 demarche to the Ambassador (reftel), protesting Congress’s listing of Ethiopia among 20 countries, including Sudan, Zimbabwe and Iran, requiring congressional notification before development and other types of assistance can be disbursed. The Prime Minister said Ethiopia wants predictability in the bilateral relationship and clarity on where Ethiopia stands with the U.S. The Prime Minister went so far as to say that the head of the military, General Samora, and Intelligence Service chief, Getachew Assefa — two hawkish, yet significantly influential, ruling party members on foreign policy — lack the confidence that the U.S. shares Ethiopia’s security concerns.
WikiLeaks: Recalibrating our relationship with Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Government’s (GoE) growing authoritarianism (Ref. A), intolerance of dissent, and ideological dominance over the economy since 2005 pose a serious threat to domestic stability and U.S. interests. The GoE has come to believe its own anxieties about a fundamental shift in U.S. policy against it. This self-induced crisis of confidence has exacerbated the GoE’s natural tendency of government control over politics, the economy and personal freedoms. To pre-empt retaliation, the GoE has increasingly purged ethnic Oromos, Amharas, and others perceived as not supporting the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) from the military (Ref. B), civil service (Ref. C), and security services. Such moves only add to the already growing deep public frustration and have led to a vicious cycle. The public is increasingly upset over double digit inflation (Ref. D), anxiety over their economic future (Ref. E), the GoE’s denial of the drought (Ref. F), growing public inability to feed their families, and narrowing of political space highlighted by the prominent arrest of opposition leader, Birtukan Midekssa.Prime Minister Meles is universally considered a brilliant thinker. Meles truly believes in reform and democratic values, but, like others in the EPRDF, he has a specific perspective on what each looks like and is confident that the party’s approach is the exclusive path to a prosperous future for Ethiopia. Bold U.S. leadership is necessary now if we are to push Ethiopia onto a more positive trajectory.
WikiLeaks: Meles re-arrests Birtukan Mideksa
In the most overt case of harassment of the political opposition since the April local elections, the Ethiopian Government (GoE) has detained Birtukan Mideksa, Chairperson of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party, three times in the three weeks and today arrested her. Birtukan is a former political detainee who, along with over 100 other opposition figures, was convicted and sentenced in the aftermath of the May 2005 elections and later pardoned in July 2007 through intensive efforts by the U.S., other donors, and the “Ethiopian Elders.” While on a outreach tour of Europe in November, Birtukan (technically correct) told reporters that she and the other political detainees “did not request any pardon of the government.” Apparently offended by the statement which effectively denies the GoE the appearance of being compassionate by attributing the pardon to the Elders, the GoE is now on the brink of rescinding Birtukan’s pardon, an act which could place our 2009 International Woman of Courage nominee (Ref. A) in prison for 15 years.As Birtukan is the most recognized leader of Ethiopia’s political opposition, this harassment sends a clear message to the broader opposition community. The detentions, harassment, and arrest of Birtukan represent the latest and most blatant incidence of a string of arrests and harassment of opposition party officials in the past few months (Ref. B). As Birtukan’s statements to the European press are factually true, the GoE has little excuse for this current harassment. As the international community clearly associates the July 2007 pardon of Birtukan and the other political detainees as heavily influenced by the USG, her re-arrest will likely be viewed by many as an affront to the USG. If the GoE pursues charges against Birtukan along with today’s arrest, or if the GoE rescinds her pardon, we strongly urge Washington to release a strongly worded statement condemning the move and resuscitate language from our January 6, 2006 public statement noting that “steps that appear to criminalize dissent impede progress on democratization.”
WikiLeaks – Religious conflict fueled by govt non-responsiveness
The non-responsiveness of the government to resolve the land dispute led Christians to resort to defying local authorities in order to build the church. It is difficult to determine why the government failed to respond to the issue, as it is usually quite proactive in resolving religious matters, as demonstrated earlier this year when the government initiated a series of interfaith dialogues following a religious conflict in Gonder. The Prime Minister was conspicuously silent on the issue once the conflict erupted, though he had intervened earlier and his directives were essentially ignored by the local administration. Though there seems to be some animosity on the part of the Christians towards the Muslims, it seems that most anger is directed towards the government. The long-standing harmonious relationship between Christians and Muslims in Dessie seems to have been preserved, indicating a high level of tolerance that is not easily shattered.
U.S. ambassador – Meles’ revolutionary democracy has eroded stability – and, hence, U.S. interests
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told Ambassador Yamamoto on July 23 that Ethiopia is pursuing a “democratic” paradigm fundamentally different from that accepted by the United States. Meles stated that he rejects President Obama’s assertion — as posed in the President’s July 11 speech in Ghana — that “development depends on good governance” and democracy. Rather, Meles argued for economic performance-based criteria for assistance, as he asserted at the G-20 summit in April. Meles argued that history does not support this assertion and that this “Western paradigm” of democracy and development cannot be imported from abroad and applied to other countries. Meles argued that the United States’ “old paradigm” is “wrong and closes off the emergence of organic democracy in Africa.” The Prime Minister asserted that the United States’ approach to development assistance through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) simply creates “another network of patronage” that prevents doing away with patronage in Africa. In Ambassador Yamamoto’s final call on Prime Minister Meles as Ambassador to Ethiopia, Meles finally acknowledged verbally Ethiopia’s fundamental difference with western approaches to democracy and development. The Prime Minister’s frank statements confirm Embassy Addis Ababa’s consistent argument over the past two years: Ethiopia’s political strategy is fundamentally different from any sense of “democracy” as commonly understood in the United States or western countries. Despite the second word in the GoE’s prevailing ideology, “Revolutionary Democracy” (Ref. C) reflects an approach to governance and development that, while arguably FOR the people, is neither OF, or BY, the people. Instead, Ethiopia is clearly (through its actions) and intentionally (as confirmed by the Prime Minister) pursuing a top-down approach through which political, economic, and even social activity must be either directed or condoned by the government (and ruling party). That which is not will be suppressed. As we argue in Ref. A, this trend fundamentally has eroded stability — and, hence, U.S. interests — in Ethiopia. While we accept the Prime Minister’s (and President Obama’s) argument that we should not impose any system of governance on Ethiopia, it is critical for us to understand the deep differences between our countries and recalibrate our engagement to protect, and better advance, U.S. interests in this fragile region.
WikiLeaks – Ethiopia: We’are following China’s model’
At a hail and farewell on August 19 for Chinese Economic and Commercial Counselor Liu Yunbiao (reftel) and his replacement, Qian Zhaogang, Ethiopian State Minister for Trade and Industry Tadesse Haile extolled the close and growing commercial relationship between China and Ethiopia and said “We have to sustain high (economic) growth so we can be like China. We’re following your (China’s) model.” Tadesse said that bilateral ties are entering a “mature” phase where both countries will be able to maximize the benefits of the trade relationship. For his part, Qian listed his priorities as facilitating government-to-government communication, working on behalf of Chinese companies, and increasing bilateral trade and investment.
WikiLeaks: Purged Air Force commander says military suffers from ethnic division
Major-General purged in 2006 while serving as commander of the Ethiopian Air Force, told the Ambassador on May 12 that the Ethiopian military suffers from ethnic division and Tigrayan dominance. Alemshet said Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles cannot afford to fight a war against Eritrea because the military lacks the will to fight and a war would exacerbate the growing cracks in the Ethiopian state. Lastly, he noted based on his continuing contacts with some military officials that the Ethiopian military was limiting itself to small-scale tactical operations in Somalia only and was not conducting any major offensive operations. Alemshet’s comments about the Ethiopian military provide a rare insight into an institution that is by nature secretive and difficult to access for outsiders. His reporting of widespread dissatisfaction for the Tigrayan dominated government within the military is consistent with the views of the government held by the broader non-Tigrayan population. The morale problems within the military are certain to worsen in the next several years unless the government changes course and becomes more inclusive, something that at present they appear to have little interest in doing.
Wikileaks – Kuma Demeksa, an opportunistic 50-year old party loyalist
Following its landslide victory in the April 2008 local elections, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) appointed Defense Minister Kuma Demeksa, an opportunistic 50-year old party loyalist, as mayor of Addis Ababa. In a conference held at the City Hall on May 20, the EPRDF also selected the Deputy Mayor, as well as the Secretary General, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the City Council. Kuma’s critics describe him as a colorless party-hack who has “been everywhere and has reached nowhere.” Kuma is quite and reclusive and rarely meets with non-party members. However, he is committed to the party and very loyal to Prime Minister Meles. Kuma is said to be a survivor because he respects authority, is reclusive and keeps a low profile. He is not well regarded in Oromiya region, where he served as President for over six years, and has been labelled indecisive and ineffective. Kuma’s appointment as Mayor has puzzled many residents of Addis Ababa. Observers expected that the EPRDF would appoint a sharper and more apt Mayor to address the multi-faceted social, political and economic problems of the city in order to win the hearts and minds of residents who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the opposition in 2005, and largely stayed home during the 2008 local elections.
Democracy: No We Can’t! – US Frustrated by TPLF
A paradigm shift must occur in the United States’ discourse with Ethiopia on foreign assistance. Over the past year, the USG has delivered on all GoE claims of “broken promises” in order to enhance the security of the Ethiopian state and to help Ethiopia combat terrorism. However, even as the USG met its promises, Ethiopia consistently rebuffed USG efforts to pursue other priorities, notably political and economic reform, and also turned down a significant number of programs designed specifically to enhance trust, communication and security cooperation between our militaries. The GoE rejected many of the programs it specifically requested. Effectively, the Ethiopian government cherry-picked areas and programs for cooperation at a time where the cross-cutting nature of political, economic and security concerns has never been more evident. At the same time, the ruling EPRDF moved forward with increasingly statist and authoritarian policies and practices, to the potential detriment of Ethiopia’s long-term stability (and thus USG interests). As a result, the foreign assistance conversation must now be framed as “Ethiopia’s broken promises.”
¶10. (S/NF) Comment Continued: Embassy Addis Ababa will make it clear to the Ethiopian government at the highest levels that the U.S.-Ethiopia strategic partnership requires reciprocity and that, for the United States, counterterrorism and security cooperation does not occur in a vacuum. Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) Central Committee members, as well as ENDF leadership, often criticize the West for placing human rights and other conditions on the provision of military and economic programs to Ethiopia. They cite Israel, China and Russia as (more) reliable partners who provide affordable equipment, always deliver and never raise conditionality.
¶11. (S/NF) Comment Continued: The Ambassador will take every opportunity to highlight for Ethiopian leadership the linkage between democratic governance/free market economy and social cohesion and stability, and urge the GoE to reconsider the current statist and authoritarian trajectory of its policies. If the GoE persists in rejecting United States priorities in such critical areas as transparency (especially AML and CFT), governance (especially civil society support for political), market reform (especially necessary diversification) and security cooperation, the long-term risks to USG interests posed by robust support for the EPRDF government, as well as the level and breadth of our foreign assistance programs, may have to be reassessed.
WikiLeaks: US Embassy suggests to State Dept change of policy toward repressive Ethiopia
This is the first in a series of cables outlining policy options on U.S.-Ethiopia relations in light of recent restrictions on political and democratic space The precipitous decline in political space has continued over the past two years. While placating donors by holding interparty dialogue on contentious issues, the ruling party effectively rejected recommendations by established opposition parties. When the lack of serious engagement forced an opposition walk out, the ruling party leveraged rubber-stamp endorsements by EPRDF-fabricated opposition groups to ram through a new National Electoral Board (NEB), a repressive media law, and a political party financing law that restricts and denies space to the opposition. In the past two years the clearly-partisan NEB has rendered suspect administrative rulings stripping the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) and Oromo National Congress (ONC) labels from their freely elected and recognized leaders (Addis 145). Ruling party cadres’ harassment and intimidation of opposition candidates in the run-up to the April local elections precluded them from registering for the April local elections (Addis 596 and Addis 667). Additionally, the NEB’s bureaucratic delays — and refusals — in approving domestic election observerss prevented credible organizations from observing the elections (Addis 1065). Together these efforts guaranteed an overwhelming marginalization of any political opposition in the 2008 local elections. Ultimately, the opposition took only three out of 3.6 million contested seats in April’s local elections. In our assessment, the local elections significantly increased voter apathy and deep frustration over the chances of building on the political gains of the 2005 campaign period and election results. Embassy Addis Ababa views this precipitous narrowing of Ethiopia’s political space as undermining Ethiopia’s stability which could affect the entire Horn of Africa region.
Wikileaks – Revolutionary Democracy defined by Sibhat Nega, Bereket, Hailemariam, Tekeda Alemu
Wikileaks – Revolutionary Democracy defined by Sibhat Nega, Bereket, Hailemariam, Tekeda Alemu
Sabhat Nega’s views represent the ideological extreme — albeit still tremendously influential — among the TPLF elites. EPRDF Central Committee members from non-TPLF component parties shed much of Sabhat’s rhetoric while still clinging adamantly to the top-down imperative approach of bringing democracy to the people. Hailemariam Desalegn, chairman of the Southern Ethiopia People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), has argued to Post that due to poor education and illiteracy the Ethiopian public is too underdeveloped to make a well reasoned, informed decision, and so Revolutionary Democracy is the political bridge by which the “enlightened leaders” can lead the people to democracy. Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) Deputy Chairman, and Trade Minister, Girma Birru emphasizes the “necessary” state role in the economy to establish an economic incubator fostering “agricultural-industrialization led development” and growth as the necessary pre-condition for democracy. On his part, Amhara Nation Democratic Movement (ANDM) Executive Committee member Bereket Simon emphasizes the merits of the EPRDF’s Revolutionary Democracy by arguing that the opposition, writ large, is not ready for democracy because it is bent on street action, all-or-nothing politics, and rejecting the political system rather than the ruling party. The future of multiparty democracy in Ethiopia, Bereket told AF/E Office Director James Knight on April 11, lies with “the sons of the private sector” and the EPRDF “must nurture the private sector so that it can establish its own political party to move the country forward.” Sabhat Nega’s point that Ethiopia will disintegrate in the absence of the TPLF’s revolutionary democracy strategy highlights the rigidity within the ruling party. In the TPLF’s collective mind-set, any alternative to its top-down approach of “democracy” threatens the existence and future of the Ethiopian state. The opposition presents even more of a threat to the state — in the TPLF/EPRDF’s eyes — in light of their view of the opposition as being infiltrated with Eritrean government hacks, bent on all-or-nothing politics, or (in a most generous interpretation) simply committed to a populous-driven bottom up view of democracy. Some GoE officials now are beginning to acknowledge that a functioning state much differentiate between its ruling party, the government, and the state. Still, there is no historical basis in Ethiopia or understanding in the public (or ruling party leaders’) psyche of such a separation of roles in Ethiopia. Without such a distinction, ruling party elites appear genuinely to view threats to the ruling party — such as those posed by otherwise legitimate political opposition groups — as being threats to the state. The late 2005 “Treason” charges against scores of opposition leaders is only the most overt demonstration of this perception. The challenge in moving Ethiopia’s democracy forward, therefore, is to identify a strategy that acknowledges the EPRDF’s commitment to democracy, work with the opposition to present less of a threat to the EPRDF, and find the delicate balance whereby the mutually exclusive approaches to democracy can be vetted with, and subjected to the will of, the Ethiopian people. Post will soon propose a road-map for engaging the GoE and Ethiopia to advance democratic reforms while navigating this delicate balance.