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2005-11-07 13:04:00
Embassy Addis Ababa
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/04/2015

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

1 (C) Summary: Prime Minister Meles' National Security Advisor, Muluget
Alemseged, told the Charge November 4 that the only way to resolve the
Ethiopia/Eritrea border dispute was to normalize the bilateral
relationship through a broad package that would emphasize non-border
issues and satisfy parents who had lost their children in the conflict.
Mulugeta said something positive for Ethiopia must come from the
resolution of the issue in order to accept demarcation as mandated by t
EEBC. He argued for a comprehensive package that would include new
commitments on free movement of people, open trade in goods and service
and guaranteed access to port facilities. In the context of normalizat
of relations, the issue of who gained or lost the disputed town of Badm
would assume lesser importance. Mulugeta said that while Eritrea was
economically and militarily unprepared for war, President Isaias was
inherently unpredictable, so Ethiopia had to prepare for the worst. He
described recent Ethiopian military movement as repositioning to cover
remote posts UNMEE had been forced to abandon by Eritrea's recent ban o
helicopter flights. Concerning Ethiopia's current internal unrest,
Mulugeta called protestors a "hooligan army" organized by opposition CU
leaders. In response to Charge's complaint of heavy handed tactics, he
lamented that Addis police had been overwhelmed and the GOE had been
forced to call up the Armed Forces to quell riots; he predicted that or
would be restored throughout the country within five days. The PM's
advisor also underscored the potential danger of Al Qaeda operatives
trained in Afghanistan joining forces with Sharia courts in Somalia,
suggesting that Ethiopia's neighbor could become the "next Iraq." End

2. (C) Charge called on Mulugeta Alemseged, who serves as National
Security Advisor to Prime Minister Meles and carries the rank of Minist
on November 4 to discuss both the Ethiopia/Eritrean border crisis as we

as Ethiopia's internal unrest. Pol/Econ Counselor and post's Defense
Liason Officer joined the Charge.

Ethiopians Long Divided Over How to Deal with Eritrea

3. (C) Mulugeta offered the Charge a historical account of long-standin
divisions among Ethiopia's current leadership class on how to deal with
Eritrea. He said that some elements of the student movement that had
emerged in the 1970's to oppose the Derg regime -- including many curre
opposition leaders -- had refused to accept Eritreans desire for
independence. Other student leaders, including those who emerged later
the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) had committed themselves
early on to a referendum to let Eritreans choose their own destiny. On
in power after 1991, the TPLF had made good on its commitment to the
referendum, at considerable political cost. Mulugeta also emphasized t
during its 17 years of armed struggle, the TPFL's views on governance
evolved towards multi-party democracy, while President Isaias, who led
TPLF's Eritrean allied force, remained authoritarian.

4. (C) The National Security Advisor argued that the subsequent hostili
that developed between Ethiopia and Eritrea did not grow out of a
territorial dispute, but rather economic issues. Eritrea had wanted a
close economic relationship without any real political ties. Mulugeta
recalled that in 1998, Eritrea had finally adopted its own currency to
replace the Ethiopian birr. The Eritrean government had wanted Ethiopi
to exchange the new currency on a one-to-one basis, but the GOE had
insisted that market mechanisms govern the exchange rate. Ethiopia had
also insisted on commercial letters of credit for trade transactions,
which Eritrea could not or would not provide. Acrimony grew, and the
Eritrean President had eventually seized upon the border issue as an
excuse to attack.

5. (C) The real issue between the two countries now was not Badme, said
Mulugeta, but how to achieve lasting peace. Peace must include new
understandings on trade, investment, port access, free movement of peop
and other economic issues. Demarcation was also part of the equation,
course, but would not resolve the root problems between the two
countries. Mulugeta said that any solution to the border problem must
"heal the wounds" of Ethiopians who lost loved ones in the 1998-2000
conflict. Something positive for Ethiopia must emerge from the process
What was needed was a comprehensive package that could only be develope
through dialogue. If a package of concrete measures, mostly economic,
could be assembled to restore the bilateral relationship to normal --
pre-conflict -- then territorial issues like Badme would seem far less
important. Whether a particular village like Badme was on one side of
border or the other would matter less to people, and less to both
governments. Amb. Huddleston agreed that an Envoy should work to assem
a package like the one Mulugeta described.

6. (C) In response to Charge's question about the GOE's level of concer
about the possible renewal of armed conflict with Eritrea, Mulugeta
replied that it was difficult to predict the behavior of President
Isaias. The PM's advisor remarked that Eritrea was unprepared to fight
both because of its dire economic situation as well as its over stretch
military, but that Isaias could still attack anyway. For that reason,
Ethiopia had to be prepared for the worst. Ethiopia was not "beating t
war drums," but President Isaias was. The GOE had responded to the
situation by repositioning military assets that were already at the bor
in order to cover gaps that the United Nations Mission to Ethiopia and
Eritrea (UNMEE) had been forced to abandon due to the Eritrean ban on
helicopter flights. The GOE had not sent new forces to the border.
Mulugeta agreed that Ethiopia's current internal unrest might prompt
President Isaias to "miscalculate" his chances of successfully attackin
Ethiopia, but also emphasized that Ethiopians had always united in the
face of foreign invasion.

Charge Calls for Restraint with Opposition Demonstrators

7. (C) Amb. Huddleston expressed concern that the sometimes heavy-hande
tactics of GOE security forces in quelling ongoing unrest in the countr
might breed more resentment and eventually inspire guerrilla resistance
against the GOE. She urged that the GOE show more restraint in its
efforts to restore order pointing to the story about a woman who was
killed when protesting her husband's detention. She also argued that
truck loads of armed military with machine guns pointed indiscriminatel
at vehicles and people going about their normal business was not conduc
to restoring order. In fact a process had been started with the electio
in which Ethiopians believed that they had a right to democracy. If th
government used strong arm tactics and failed to provide more opening t
process could self-destruct. Mulugeta lamented that riot control units
the Addis Ababa police had been unprepared to deal with demonstrations
large and spread out as those over the previous week. The GOE has
resorted to calling up the Armed Forces, "as any government would do."

8. (C) Mulugeta observed that the opposition's strategy resembled that
some student opponents of the Derg regime in the 1970's -- a movement t
formed many of the opposition's leaders, though he hastened to add that
some current opposition leaders were members of the Derg. That strateg
focused on mobilizing street demonstrations and other resistance in Add
Ababa and sought the immediate overthrow of the Derg. Student leaders
eventually formed the TPLF, on the other hand, had believed that the De
was too strong and could only be overthrown with through patient,
grassroots activity in rural areas, where the DERG was weaker. In the
final analysis, the Derg had wiped out urban resistance in a couple of
years, while the TPLF eventually triumphed after a 17-year struggle.
During that time, TPLF views had evolved toward multi-party democracy a
constitutional rule -- a commitment the EPRDF retained today.

GOE Battling the Opposition's "Hooligan Army"

9. (C) Mulugeta claimed that today's opposition leaders in the Coalitio
for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) still hoped for quick results from
urban demonstrations, as some of them had sought against the Derg. Rat
than working within the democratic process, they had chosen to put it i
danger. The GOE had no choice but to safeguard the Constitutional orde
against what Mulugeta called the opposition's "hooligan army." The
National Security Advisor acknowledged that the country's May 15 electi
had suffered from irregularities, but argued that the EPRDF had
unquestionably won a majority. The only question was how large. Every
had been surprised by how many seats the opposition had won -- includin
CUDP leaders themselves -- and their gains had emboldened some in the
opposition to "go for the whole cake."

10. (C) The Charge asked whether the GOE had proof that the CUDP was
really behind the current street demonstrations. She noted that the
party's press statements had merely called for non-violent activities l
horn-honking and a strike, but these had immediately turned into violen
street action. Mulugeta called the CUDP's public insistence on
non-violence a "camuflauge." The party had rejected the election resul
and its leader, Hailu Shawel, had made statements in the U.S. calling f
the overthrow of the EPRDF government "by any means necessary." CUD
leaders had also warned during the election campaign that "the people w
respond violently if elections are rigged." Mulugeta charged that
opposition leaders were not interested in the democratic process and di
not want to wait five years for another chance to win. Mulugeta predic
that unrest (Note: which spread to some other cities on Nov. 4. End no
would last only five more days.

11. (C) The Charge expressed hope that the GOE would soon restore orde
While she believed that the GOE's commitment to democracy was genuine,
Ethiopia could see its US assistance reduced, the US Congress was great
concerned about the violence and several Congressmen had issued stateme
urging restraint. She asked again that security forces use more
restraint, and that the GOE move forward on a dialogue to deepen Ethiop
democracy. Mulugeta agreed, but told the Charge that some EPRDF leader
needed time to adjust to the idea of further democratic opening. All o
them were still learning about how democracy worked. They were human t
and there were differences among ruling coalition members leaders about
how to handle the opposition. The Charge said she hoped the EPRDF coul
learn fast enough to stay ahead of rising popular expectations for

Need to Retool Somalia TFG to Confront Growing Extremist Threat

12. (C) Mulugeta said the GOE was worried about the increasing presence
Al Qaeda operatives in Somalia. These operatives, who had been trained
Afghanistan camps, wore hoods when they conducted assasinations, and we
known as "Dire." Mulugeta said that these terrorists were joining forc
with Sharia courts and their militia to press for an extremist Islamic
state in Somalia. The GOE hoped to work closely with the USG to addres
the problem, he added. He said PM Meles was evaluating how the
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia might be "revamped" so
that it would be better able to confront extremist elements. Mulugeta
said that the TFG's prime minister and president were both committed to
fighting terrorists, as were some of the other ministers, but some TFG
ministers were "soft" on Al Qaeda. He pointed out that terrorist attac
in Nairobi and Mombassa had been planned in Somalia, and concluded that
"if we deal with this problem too late, Somalia could become the next