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2005-11-28 12:56:00
Embassy Addis Ababa
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ADDIS ABABA 003954 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2015

Classified By: PolEcon Counselor Kevin Sullivan for reason
1.4 (b,d)




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2015

Classified By: PolEcon Counselor Kevin Sullivan for reason
1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The GOE's comprehensive crackdown on the CUD
has left remaining leaders of Ethiopia's largest opposition
party fearful, divided and so far paralyzed. At least 25 of
60 supreme council members are in jail; many others are under
surveillance and afraid to engage in political activity. The
focus of at least part of the party has now shifted to the
Diaspora, which is pushing donor governments in their
capitals to help free jailed leaders. PM Meles has insisted
that imprisoned CUD leaders will be tried for treason, and
told the Charge that an Ethiopian court would soon ban the
party. The National Electoral Board (NEB) has rejected the
CUD's attempts to re-register itself as a legal party. Meles
has left the door open to dialogue with CUD leaders still at
large, but has so far taken no concrete steps toward this
end. Some CUD moderates would like to meet to discuss a way
forward, but have faced threats from security services.
Lidetu Ayalew, who was suspended from the CUD just prior to
the crackdown, hopes to take at least a portion of his
UEDP-Medhin party into Parliament eventually, but is

struggling with powerful popular opposition to compromise
with the GOE. Unless international pressure and/or continued
domestic unrest force PM Meles negotiate with detained CUD
leaders -- which appears quite unlikely in the near term -- a
renewed political dialogue with the UEDF and a quiet
migration of CUD MPs into Parliament are probably the best
chance keep democracy moving forward in Ethiopia. End

CUD Decapitated and Paralyzed at Home

2. (C) The GOE's comprehensive crackdown on Ethiopia's
largest opposition organization, the Coalition for Unity and
Democracy (CUD), has left the party largely leaderless and
paralyzed within Ethiopia. At least 25 of 60 members of the

CUD's Supreme Council, the party's policy-making body, were
rounded up after the outbreak of large-scale protests
throughout the country during the first week of November. PM
Meles indicated to the Charge that the GOE had arrested only
those members of the CUD leadership who had actively
supported street violence designed to overthrow the
government. A number of other alleged party supporters,
including newspaper publishers and NGO leaders, were also
arrested. Meles has since stated emphatically in public and
in private that arrested CUD leaders would be tried for
treason in connection with their alleged role in fomenting
and organizing violent demonstrations.

3. (C) Most remaining members of the CUD Supreme Council have
remained at home or kept a low-profile since the arrests.
Several claimed in conversations that they received telephone
warnings, presumably from GOE intelligence officers, that
they should remain at home or refrain from any political
activity. Admassu Gebeyehu, whom the CUD designated in
September to become deputy mayor of Addis Ababa, told PolEcon
Counselor in mid-November that he had had no contact with
other party leaders since the arrest. The focus of at least
part of the party has now shifted to the Diaspora, where
thousands of supporters are pushing donor governments in
their capitals to help free jailed leaders. At the same
time, Admassu asked post for help in bringing CUD leaders
still at liberty in Ethiopia together to discuss the way

Charge's CUD Lunch Turns Out to be No Picnic

4. (C) The Charge invited all CUD Supreme Council members
still at liberty to lunch at her residence on Nov. 18, along
with opposition leaders from the UEDF and OFDM who had chosen
to enter Parliament. Her purpose in hosting the event was to
provide a space for shaken CUD leaders to regroup and begin
to consider whether and how they could rejoin the political
process. The Charge notified the Minister of Justice and the
State Minister of Foreign Affairs about the meeting and its
purpose in advance, but nevertheless found an alarming news
article in a ruling party newspaper on the morning of the
event that suggested the U.S. Embassy was seeking to
reorganize the criminal CUD. She also received a phone call
from PM Meles the same morning in which Meles cautioned
against "coddling" CUD leaders. The Charge should not
suggest that the international community would solve the
party's problems or protect them, the PM said. He added he
expected at least 50 CUD MPs would eventually choose to join
Parliament "if left alone." The Charge also heard separately
from MFA State Minister Tekeda that meeting with CUD leaders
one at a time was fine, but that meeting with them in groups
offered hard-liners the opportunity to grandstand and impose
their view. The Charge reiterated her purpose for the
gathering and asked that the GOE not prevent CUD members from

5. (C) Only seven CUD leaders chose to attend the lunch in
the end; some reported that they were too concerned about
their security, while others indicated that they felt it was
inappropriate to meet or make decisions while party leaders
were imprisoned. Still others objected to the Charge's
inviting Lidetu Ayalew, the charismatic leader of the
UEDP-Medhin party whom the CUD had officially suspended after

he failed to cooperate with the process of re-registering the
CUD coalition as a unified party. Those who did attend the
lunch included representatives from UEDP-Medhin and the
Ethiopian Democratic League (EDL). No representatives
attended from Berhanu Nega's Rainbow Party or CUD President
Hailu Shawel's precursor All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP).
Hailu Shawel's son, Shawel Hailu, expressed suspicions
concerning Charge's lunch at a gathering the Charge hosted
for families of detained leaders. Shawel told one post
contact that the lunched was designed to split the CUD.

Negotiate with Jailed CUD Leadership?

6. (C) Those closest to the imprisoned leadership of the CUD,
as well as more neutral local observers, appear to be betting
that international pressure will force PM Meles to negotiate
a deal with the jailed leaders. Isaac Kifle, a long-standing
embassy contact who now serves as a political representative
for Hailu Shawel, approached PolEcon Counselor Nov. 18 to ask
for Embassy support in arranging such a negotiation. Isaac
invoked the precedent of Nelson Mandela's negotiated release
from jail and ultimate assumption of political power. Isaac
subsequently reported receiving a warning from GOE security
personnel note to leave his home. At a subsequent gathering
of independent newspaper editors and political experts, all
expressed the view that any effort to make peace between the
CUD and the GOE would have to involve release of all or most
of the imprisoned leadership. One well-informed observer,
Abdul Mohammed of the InterAfrica Group, suggested an
ambitious bargain in which all CUD leaders would be freed in
return for a commitment for all CUD MPs to take their seats
in Parliament and regional councils, including Addis Ababa.
He then acknowledged that release of Hailu Shawel would be
nearly impossible for the GOE, and suggested that sending
Shawel and associate Dr. Mesfin Woldemariam to the U.S.
(permanently) for medical treatment would be the most
practical solution for all sides.

GOE Takes Steps to Outlaw and Demonize CUD

7. (C) PM Meles indicated to the Charge and AU Chairman
Konare in mid-November that he hoped to engage in a dialogue
with those CUD leaders still at liberty -- but never with
jailed hard-liners. At the same time, however, the EPRDF
government appears to be moving to terminate the CUD itself.
PM Meles indicated to the Charge on Nov. 25 that an Ethiopian
court would soon ban the party as a result of its criminal
acts in fomenting violent demonstrations both in November as
well as earlier in June. Ethiopian state media have been
engaged for two weeks in a massive campaign to blame the CUD
as an organization -- rather than individual leaders -- for
the violence and destruction of property in early November,
probably to prepare public opinion for the banning of the
party. On November 20, the National Electoral Board rejected
the application filed by CUD component parties to register
the coalition as a unified party. The NEB found that the
application was "incomplete" because one of the parties
participating in the merger, the UEDP-Medhin, did not present
appropriate documentation. PM Meles told the Charge
separately in their Nov. 18 phone call that an Ethiopian
court might ban the party. In another ominous development,
stories began appearing in state media on November 23
suggesting that the NEB would soon move to hold bi-elections
to fill those parliamentary and regional council seats not
taken by CUD candidates. Such elections would definitively
close the door to reintegrating CUD leaders into the
political system.

CUD Moderates Try to Resurface

8. (C) Some CUD leaders remain optimistic about the party's
continued survival and integrity, however. Dr. Alemayu
Aredo, a senior member of the Ethiopian Democratic League
(EDL), a junior partner within the CUD, told post privately
on Nov. 24 that NEB officials had indicated they would
reconsider the board's decision to reject the CUD merger if
it received a clearer endorsement of the application from
UEDP-Medhin, or if the latter party were dropped from the

application. Alemayu also said that many leaders among those
still at liberty had concluded after recent violence that
Parliamentary participation was the only way forward for the
party and for Ethiopian democracy. The large number of
unnecessary deaths had had on impact on many party leaders,
he said. Alemayu acknowledged that some party hard-liners,
including members of the Diaspora, would oppose any effort to
chart a new course while party leaders remained detained, but
he claimed that he and many other leaders were prepared to
proceed anyway. He asked post's assistance in securing a GOE
commitment not to arrest CUD leaders if they met to consider
next steps. The Charge made a pitch for such guarantees to
Deputy Foreign Minister Tekeda Nov. 25 and received a
positive initial reaction, and a promise to pursue assurances
with EPRDF leaders.

Outcast Lidetu Seeking Alternate Path

9. (C) UEDP-Medhin leader Lidetu Ayalew has played a key role
in the CUD's tumultuous recent history. Lidetu has
increasingly taken issue with the more confrontational course
Hailu Shawel has charted for the coalition. After CUD
leaders decided against entering Parliament and the
government of Addis Ababa in October, Lidetu decided to
withhold his party's support for the CUD's formal merger
application. Lidetu predicted privately in mid-October that
the NEB was likely to refuse the CUD's merger application,
and that the kind of confrontation that Hailu sought would
eventually lead to the banning of the party. His refusal to
hitch his party's star whole-heartedly to Hailu's earned him
public repudiation in opposition-leaning media as well as
formal suspension from the CUD. Some of Lidetu's colleagues
in UEDP-Medhin remained loyal to him, while others joined
Hailu Shawel's camp within the CUD.

10. (C) Events have proven him correct, but Lidetu has
continued to maintain a low political profile since the early
November arrests. He has recently begun to do media
interviews again advocating a "political solution" to current
tensions. He told the Charge in mid-November that he hoped
to convince the public and other CUD leaders gradually that
entering the Parliamentary system was the best way to build a
durable, successful opposition movement. Lidetu believed
that getting a significant number of CUD MPs into Parliament
was possible, but that GOE release of most CUD leaders and
other political detainees was essential in order to reduce
the deep and widespread popular anger at the EPRDF. He said
the threat of potential bi-elections to fill their seats
might be just the face-saving excuse many CUD leaders would
need to enter Parliament. He also suggested negotiations
with imprisoned leaders themselves. While this step would be
extremely difficult for PM Meles, Lidetu argued that the
EPRDF needed opposition parties in order to govern the
country. The alternative would be eventual guerrilla
activity in both rural and urban areas and the loss of 15
years of painful democratic progress. Lidetu added, however,
that the CUD might be forced to break down into its component
parties again, at least for a time, in order to survive and
move forward in the coming months.

-------------- --------------
Comment: With Negotiation Unlikely, CUD May Need to Find
Another Way
-------------- --------------

11. (C) Most knowledgeable observers in Ethiopia agree that
political compromise between the EPRDF and CUD supporters is
essential both to the establishment of successful multi-party
democracy as well as to the avoidance of armed civil conflict
in the medium term. At the same time, the CUD as an entity
so far appears unable to engage in a dialogue except through
its imprisoned senior leadership -- with whom PM Meles
refused to negotiate. The EPRDF may be planning to do away
with the CUD altogether through jailing its leaders, denying
it legal status and intimidating those left at liberty. PM
Meles has indicated previously that Ethiopia's current
opposition was fundamentally undemocratic and might have to
be destroyed in order for a more genuine and enlightened
opposition to emerge. His government may well be acting now
upon that premise. An alternate theory, however, would hold
that PM Meles has sought to surgically remove hard-line
elements of the CUD -- including some newspaper editors -- in
order to allow more moderate elements to enter the
Parliamentary political process. The GOE's actions over the
next few weeks should reveal which explanation of recent
events is more accurate.

12. (C) Unless international pressure and/or continued
domestic unrest force PM Meles negotiate with detained CUD
leaders -- which appears quite unlikely in the near term -- a
renewed political dialogue with opposition parties in
Parliament, along with a quiet migration of some CUD MPs into
Parliament and Regional Councils, seem to offer the most
realistic way forward. PM Meles needs to take concrete steps
soon to facilitate that outcome, however. The capacity of
remaining CUD leaders to adapt to the post-unrest scenario
will also be critical.