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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ADDISABABA3443
2005-09-29 04:50:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

ETHIOPIA: LEADING OPPOSITION COALITION BECOMES

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  PREL  ET  ELEC 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						
					
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 003443

SIPDIS

LONDON AND ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/28/2015
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ET ELEC
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: LEADING OPPOSITION COALITION BECOMES
UNIFIED PARTY

REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 3382


B. ADDIS ABABA 3425

Classified By: Charge Vicki Huddleston for reason 1.4 (b,d).

1 (C) SUMMARY: The four parties belonging of the Coalition
for Unity and Democracy (CUD), Ethiopia's leading opposition
organization, officially merged Sept. 24 to form a single
party of the same name. Hailu Shawel, the Coalition's
chairman, will continue as president of the new party, but
the second-tier of leadership will include several new faces
from a younger generation. The large gathering assembled to
launch the new party did not repeat Hailu's calls for
bringing down the current government, and in general
projected a unified, moderate and inclusive image. The CUD
now represents the largest and most cohesive democratic
opposition Ethiopia has ever had. While the Amhara ethnic
group is heavily represented in the CUD, the party rejects
ethnic-dominated politics and advocates free-market policies.
The CUD has taken its latest evolutionary step just in time
to confront the GOE in mass demonstrations and/or strikes in
the coming days. The party's unity and political skills are
likely to be severely tested. End Summary.

--------------
Something Old, Something New
--------------


2. (C) The CUD held a full day of meetings Sept. 24 to
finalize the dissolution of the coalition's four component
parties and the birth of a new, unified political party of
the same name. The large gathering formalized the election
of Hailu Shawel, the 69-year-old chairman of the previous
coalition, as the party's new president. Shawel's former
political vehicle, the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP), was
the oldest and largest party (1.2 million members reported)
in the previous CUD coalition. Shawel himself was absent
from the meeting as he continues his political and medical
trip to the U.S. (ref A). The new party's vice-presidents,
on the other hand, come from a younger generation. Bertukan

Mideksa, a 34 year-old former judge from Berhanu Nega's
Rainbow Party, was elected the CUD's first vice-president.
She is a relatively fresh face in politics, but gained some
notoriety when, as a judge, she issued the order to release
former Minister of Defense Seye Abraha from prison after the
latter failed in an internal political challenge to PM Meles.
The CUD's other young vice-president is 33 year-old Lidetu
Ayalew, formerly of the EDP-Medhin Party, whose fiery
rhetoric and charisma has earned him a large following among
CUD youth. Lidetu's recent statements, however, have been
considerably more moderate than those of Hailu Shawel.
Muluneh Eyoel of the EDL, the coalition's fourth component
party, got the Secretary General slot.


3. (C) The new party also elected a 20-member executive
committee that incorporates leaders from the four former
parties in equal proportions -- this despite the fact that
Hailu's AEUP far outnumbered the other groupings, none of
which claims more than 100,000 members. While they can't
match the AEUP's numbers, however, the other parties in the
coalition appear to offer fresh political talent from more
diverse ethnic groups than Hailu's mainly Amhara base. The
CUD has explicitly rejected ethnically-oriented politics of
the governing EPRDF coalition and has proven to be
particularly popular in urban areas, where the degree of
ethnic intermarriage is much greater than in Ethiopia's
countryside.

--------------
An Ethiopian Big-Tent Approach
--------------


4. (C) The roughly 500 people who gathered at an Addis Ababa
hotel to mark the CUD's transformation into a party included
a number of notable guests. Among them was former Ethiopian
President Negasso Gidada, an Oromo who won a parliamentary
seat in May national elections running as an independent.
Marera Gudina, co-chair of the other main opposition
coalition, the United Ethiopian Democratic Front (UEDF), was
also in attendance. Marera, also an Oromo, took to the
podium to congratulate the CUD on helping to consolidate the
opposition -- what he called a rare feat in Ethiopian
politics. Marera's appearance underscored the cordial
relationship between the CUD and UEDF within Ethiopia in
spite of persistent tensions between the two movements in the
exile community. CUD speakers also reiterated their desire
to incorporate other political forces in the future.

-------------- --------------
Comment: Impressive, But Hardest Part Still Ahead
-------------- --------------


5. (C) The CUD's merger party was an impressive display of
power and unity, and avoided the threatening rhetoric that
its new president has employed in the U.S. Nonetheless, it
will be increasingly difficult for CUD moderates to distance
themselves from their own party president, as they did one
last time last week. The newly-founded CUD party will face
an enormous challenge in charting a course through impending
mass demonstrations (ref B), as well as in deciding whether
and how to take its seats in parliament. If it can survive
the next several weeks, however, the CUD can look forward to
governing Ethiopia's powerful capital city, and probably to
expanding its share of the country's political pie in the
coming years.
HUDDLESTON