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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ADDISABABA1042
2006-04-19 05:36:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

ETHIOPIA: MELES REACHING OUT TO SOME INTERNAL

Tags:   PREL  PHUM  ASEC  MARR  ET 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO7232
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1042/01 1090536
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 190536Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0044
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA PRIORITY 1422
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001042 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER
BUJUMBURA FOR DAS YAMAMOTO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2016
TAGS: PREL PHUM ASEC MARR ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: MELES REACHING OUT TO SOME INTERNAL
OPPONENTS


Classified By: CDA Vicki Huddleston

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001042

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER
BUJUMBURA FOR DAS YAMAMOTO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2016
TAGS: PREL PHUM ASEC MARR ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: MELES REACHING OUT TO SOME INTERNAL
OPPONENTS


Classified By: CDA Vicki Huddleston


1. (C) Summary: The Charge pressed PM Meles again to release
on bail at least some of those facing treason charges in
connection with November riots. While the PM offered no
concessions now, he reaffirmed that after the trial had been
completed, political options were available. Meles also
promised to be flexible in facilitating a takeover of Addis
Ababa by CUD council members-elect. He also agreed to a
flexible formula for resolving legal questions concerning the
allocation of committee seats and debate time for parties in
Parliament. The PM also highlighted the GOE's ongoing
overture to the insurgents in the Ogaden region. The Charge
encouraged this last effort, which would make it easier for
CJTF-HOA to conduct its civil affairs projects in the region.
End Summary.


2. (C) The Charge called on Prime Minister Meles Zenawi April
17 to discuss a number of issues. Discussion of ongoing
diplomatic efforts on the border dispute with Eritrea are
reported via septel. This message deals with internal
Ethiopian politics. Personal assistance Amb. Gebretensai
accompanied the Prime Minister, while Pol/Econ Counselor
joined the Charge.

-------------- --------------
GOE Facilitating City Council and Parliamentary Representation
-------------- --------------


3. (C) PM Meles told the Charge that the GOE would continue
to show maximum flexibility in allowing Addis City Council
members elected under the CUD banner to achieve quorum for
taking over administration of the capital. (Note: the
National Electoral Board notified the City Council Organizing
Committee April 18 that it could have one more week to verify
the signatures on the petition it had submitted to form a
government. The group appeared to be one or two members
short of the 69 needed for quorum as of April 18. End note.)


4. (C) The PM also accepted an informal solution tentatively

worked out by Charge Huddleston and other Western diplomats
to allocate both committee seats and debate time amongst
various parties in Parliament caught up in legal ambiguities.
Under the arrangement, Lidetu Ayalew's UEDP-Medhin party
would insist on receiving debate time based on all the MPs
(41) it had elected as part of the CUD coalition in May 2005,
but would demand representation in standing committees based
only on the 21 MPs that currently remained loyal to Lidetu.
For its part, the CUDP delegation in Parliament, under Chief
Whip Temesgen Zewde, would cede debate time to UEDP-Medhin in
return for Lidetu's commitment not to legally contest the
migration of Temesgen and other former UEDP-Medhin members to
the new CUDP. The CUDP would receive committee seats based
on its actual number of MPs (roughly 65) as well as
recognition as the largest opposition party in the chamber.
On another front, Tolosa Tesfaye, the head of the
legally-recognized Oromo National Congress (ONC), had agreed
to share debate time and committee seats on a pro-rated basis
with the group of MPs that remained loyal to former ONC
chairman Merera Gudina.

-------------- --------------
No Release of CUD Detainees Now, But Post-Trial Options Open
-------------- --------------


5. (C) Charge Huddleston pressed Meles for some forward
movement on those detaineed in connection with November 2005
riots. Some progress on this front would reduce the threat
of violence in the streets and strengthen the hand of
moderate CUDP leaders who were participating in Parliament
and City Council in the face of serious threats and
harassment from Diaspora hard-liners. She suggested that the
GOE consider releasing on bail and/or reducing charges for
civil society detainees, for example. She also advocated an
early start to the ruling party's planned dialogue with
Parliamentary CUDP leaders and more access to state media for
the Parliamentary opposition.


6. (C) Meles said that while bullying pressure was easy to
resist, he regretted that he could not agree to the proposals
for releasing detainees made by friends like the Charge and
University of Chicago Prof. Donald Levine. He recalled that
the most difficult moment for him was having to turn down
such requests from his friend (British PM) Tony Blair in
South Africa. Nonetheless, Meles said there limits to what
he could agree to. Charges against detainees must be
consistent with the evidence, and only the court could
resolve the cases. To do otherwise would put the GOE and the

ADDIS ABAB 00001042 002 OF 002


country on a slippery slope toward lawlessness. There must
be no connections between the road to democracy and the road
to violence, he added. Meles discounted the possibility of
more large-scale unrest in Addis, and said problems in
Oromiya had been "quarantined" in schools. At the Charge's
insistence, however, the PM reaffirmed that once the trial
had been completed and verdicts rendered, "political options
would be available." The Charge emphasized the need to begin
pulling the country together again.

-------------- --
GOE Reaching Out to ONLF Through Ogadeni Elders
-------------- --


7. (C) The Charge told the PM that AF DAS Don Yamamoto had
met recently in Washington with representatives from the
Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The group had
indicated its readiness to begin talking with the GOE if
self-determination was on the agenda. Yamamoto had
discouraged the group from pressing immediately on the issue
of self-determination, she added, but the USG was ready to
facilitate talks if that would be useful. Meles replied that
the GOE had sent a team of Ogadeni elders to both Washington
and Europe to approach the ONLF. The proposal they carried
was that the GOE was ready to talk with the ONLF outside
Ethiopia, perhaps in one of the Gulf states, if the ONLF
agreed to accept the Constitution as it currently existed.
Some participation of Somali clan leaders would also be
welcome. The ONLF had indicated that it did not want elders
involved in talks, but Meles wanted the elders as observers,
if not facilitators, so that they could also see what the GOE
was really offering. If the ONLF opted to pursue violence
with the support of the Eritrean government, then at least
the elders would have witnessed the process. The Prime
Minister added that if ONLF leaders did not agree to pursue
peace through negotiations, then the GOE was prepared to
engage in a more aggressive military campaign against them.


8. (C) Charge Huddleston welcomed the GOE's initiative and
pointed out that peace in the Ogaden would make the civil
affairs work of CJTF-HOA far easier, and make closer
cooperation with the Ethiopian military far less dangerous
for U.S. service members.

--------------
Comment: Meles Seeking Peace Where He Can
--------------


9. (C) Amidst credible charges of heavy-handedness and abuses
by the GOE, it is easy to forget that internal opponents like
the OLF, ONLF and some elements of the CUD have been openly
seeking to overthrow the EPRDF regime through undemocratic --
and sometimes violent -- means. Ethiopia remains a diverse
and difficult country to govern. At present, it appears that
PM Meles is seeking to make peace with those elements who are
willing to compete for power strictly within the confines of
(still imperfect) democratic institutions. He is seeking to
maintain his grip on the situation here through a mixture of
toughness and accommodation that will be efficient and
effective internally, as well as acceptable to the
international community, especially "friends" like the U.S.
and Britain.
HUDDLESTON