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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ADDISABABA1483
2006-05-26 13:16:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

ETHIOPIA: POLITICAL TENSION AND ECONOMIC POTENTIAL

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  EINV  ET 
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VZCZCXRO9259
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1483/01 1461316
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261316Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0841
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 001483 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF DAS YAMAMOTO AND AF/E
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL EINV ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: POLITICAL TENSION AND ECONOMIC POTENTIAL
IN OROMIA


Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES VICKI HUDDLESTON. REASON: 1.4(D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 001483

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF DAS YAMAMOTO AND AF/E
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL EINV ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: POLITICAL TENSION AND ECONOMIC POTENTIAL
IN OROMIA


Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES VICKI HUDDLESTON. REASON: 1.4(D)


1. (C) SUMMARY: During a two-day visit (May 16-17) to the
West Shoa Zone in the Oromia Region, Charge discussed the
current political situation and economic development with the
regional administrator, ruling and opposition party members,
as well as leading local businessmen. On the surface, the
atmosphere in the zone appears calm. However, the tension
between the ruling and opposition party members, which was
the source of recent sporadic violence, does not seem to have
eased significantly. In the midst of the political turmoil,
investment in the region is relatively strong and the local
administration anticipates further growth in the near term.
END SUMMARY.


2. (C) The Charge, together with P/E Counselor, a Poloff and
a senior FSN made a trip to West Shoa May 16-17 to assess
current political and economic conditions. Ambo, the capital
of the district, lies two hours drive west of Addis Ababa. A
number of meetings were held with the local Oromo People's
Democratic Organization (OPDO) and Oromo National Congress
(ONC) party members, as well as a visit to the Senkele
prison/military training camp to follow-up a previous visit
in December 2005.

--------------
A REGION IN TURMOIL
--------------


3. (U) Of the 15 Parliamentary constituencies in the West
Shoa Zone, the opposition ONC won 13 seats in the May 2005
elections, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD)
captured one, leaving the OPDO with only one seat. However,
the constitution of the Oromia region states that the party
that wins the entire region has the right to administer all
of the zones. Therefore, despite overwhelming backing for
the ONC, the OPDO retains the right to appoint the
Administration for the West Shoa Zone.


4. (U) The result of the May 2005 election was a shock and
embarrassment for the OPDO. Since the election there have

been numerous reports from this zone of violent clashes
between the federal police and protesting citizens, leading
to mass imprisonment and some fatalities. Though the
situation has been mostly peaceful since March 2006, there
were two reports of bombings in the zone that coincided with
the reported bombings in Addis Ababa. On March 13 an
explosive devise went off in an open market in Gedo,
resulting in 4 deaths and 43 injuries. The ONC blames the
OPDO and claims the dead were ONC members. The OPDO blames
the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), though no one
claimed responsibility and no arrests have been made.
Another explosion took place on May 12 in Ambo town near an
elementary school. There were no fatalities and arrests were
made. Predictably, the ONC accuses the OPDO, while the OPDO
claims the individual arrested admitted to being an ONC
member.


5. (U) Despite the recent political tension, there appears to
moderately strong economic progress in the region. There are
currently 175 investment projects identified in the zone in
various stages of operation, with a total of USD 250 million
in capital. Of these 175 projects, 73 have begun operations,
20 are currently under construction and the remaining are
still in the planning stage. The most significant sectors
attracting investors are manufacturing, food crops and cut
flowers. A new, paved road leading to Addis Ababa is under
construction that should stimulate further growth and
investment.

--------------
OPDO: UNAPOLOGETIC AND IN CONTROL
--------------


6. (C) The team met with Alemayehu Ejigu, the local regional
administrator and head of the OPDO, as well and OPDO zonal
membership coordinator Lechisa Hayu. OPDO representatives
reiterated that their mandate for political control of the
zone is clearly stated in the regional constitution, but
added that they have an "open door policy" and are willing to
work productively with the ONC, so long as the latter,s
approach is peaceful. They stressed that both the OPDO and
ONC generally have common ideas on peace and development and

ADDIS ABAB 00001483 002 OF 003


they are committed to the political process, since "that is
how modern democracies should work." In response to
questioning by the Charge regarding the election results and
potential difficulty in administering the region, the OPDO
leadership claimed that despite the loss at the ballot box,
they have made strides in winning the hearts and minds of the
people during their year in office. They freely admitted to
having detained many students and ONC party members as a
result of violent clashes since the election, but noted that
all have been released except 10 students and 5 ONC regional
parliamentarians. They also acknowledged the shooting death
of two students by federal police, but pointed out that an
officer has been convicted by the zonal high court for his
actions in these shootings.


7. (C) On economic matters, Mr. Ejigu identified his
government,s approach toward attracting investors as one of
non-interference. He mentioned that there are 3,400 hectares
of land currently used by these investors, and an additional
6,000 hectares are being prepared for future investment
projects. Previously, if an investor wanted to acquire land,
they were required to work through the government in order to
work out an arrangement with local subsistence farmers
occupying that land, and to organize the 5-year subsidy that
the investor would pay dislocated farmers. Now, however, the
investor can work directly with the farmers and any
involvement by the government is simply to ensure a fair
subsidy. When addressing the matter of security and how this
might influence investors, Mr. Ejigu pointed out that nearly
all of the investors are located in the portion of the zone
that is nearest Addis Ababa, which has been less prone to
unrest, but that political troubles have not deterred
investment altogether. However, he stressed the importance
of dialogue with the ONC in order to stabilize the region to
increase the flow of new investors further.

--------------
ONC: TWO PARTIES, TWO APPROACHES?
--------------


8. (C) The meeting with the ONC was attended by the zonal
party Chairman, Alemayehu Erosso, the Deputy Chairman,
Tadesse Ereso and the Secretary General, Major Tamirat Olio.
The ONC leaders claimed that the OPDO,s stated "open door
policy" is fictitious, and that despite attempts to have
regular meetings, the OPDO has demonstrated little
willingness to listen. They maintain that in the few
opportunities that they have had to discuss issues with the
OPDO leadership, resulting agreements were subsequently
broken.


9. (C) Though the ONC party leadership acknowledged that the
Carter Center,s report on the results of the general
election of May 2005 (which suggested that, despite
irregularities in the voting, the ruling party won the
majority of votes) is likely accurate, they stated that
"fallacious elections cannot be accepted" and that the will
of the people is demonstrated by the people,s uprising
against the government. They admitted that a significant
portion of their electorate is in fact more politically
aligned with the outlawed OLF, but that the ONC is their only
recognized alternative at this time.


10. (C) The ONC party leadership claimed that since November
2005, thousands of students and several ONC regional
parliamentarians have been detained, numerous women have been
raped by federal police, and 46 people were killed in
crackdowns on student protests. They stressed that the ONC
has had great difficulty in reconciliation while members of
their party are still in jail without bail or official
charges and while their offices are still closed. Further,
they contend that it is difficult to persuade many of their
younger party members to stick to peaceful means following
these events, rather than engaging in violence.

--------------
ONLY POLICE AT SENKELE NOW
--------------


11. (C) As a follow-up to a US Embassy visit in December
2005, the team returned to Senkele Police Training Camp to
determine whether this site was still in use a detention
facility for arrested demonstrators. The Charge and P/E

ADDIS ABAB 00001483 003 OF 003


counselor met with Commander Gomachu, a deputy director of
the camp to ask about the current use of the facility and
general police training and activity in the region.


12. (C) Commander Gomachu acknowledged past detentions at the
camp, but that these were due to overflow in the prison
system. He also confirmed that at times police were required
to use extreme force to quell demonstrations, but that this
was due to a lack of funding, manpower and equipment, rather
than simple brutality. At this time, the camp is used for
training of approximately 1,000 police recruits. The team
was given a tour of the facility, and while conditions for
the residents were very crowded and in poor repair, there did
not appear to be any prisoners being kept at the facility
presently.

--------------
ECONOMIC PROGRESS DESITE CHAOS
--------------


13. (C) During the visit, the Charge and P/E counselor
discussed the investment climate with two Ethiopian
businessmen that have recently invested in the region. The
first visit was with Samuel Zewdu, an Ethiopian-American
owner of a flour mill and bakery near Ambo town. He reports
providing 90 percent of the supply of bread sold in the local
market. Although he has intentions of growing his business,
he is waiting for the completion of a better road to the
capital before launching a large-scale expansion. In order
to establish his factory, he was required to build 5
kilometers of power lines as well as to tap the local river
for water supply. He repeatedly expressed his frustration
with the local administration in responding to the
requirements of local businesspeople. He contrasted local
obstruction and indifference with the receptiveness and quick
responses of the Federal level Minister responsible for
investment promotion.


14. (C) The second visit was with Solomon Sebhatu, the owner
of Menagesha flower farm. Solomon, in contrast with Zewdu,
reported no complaints of working with the government. He
runs a very prosperous and growing flower business. His
farm, located closer to Addis Ababa and accessible by paved
road, exports roses to the European market. Solomon invested
40 million Ethiopian Birr to acquire his 62 hectares of land
and to build a modern greenhouse system capable of producing
world class flowers. Mr. Solomon has strong political
connections with the ruling party and has reported no
problems with government interference or political unrest.
He plans to expand his facilities in the near future.


15. (C) COMMENT: Both the OPDO and the ONC claim to be
working in the interests of the Oromo people and it is
difficult to identify policy differences between the two
parties. The ONC has difficulty articulating why the
population voted for them, other than as a voice against the
national ruling party. In this sense, ONC representatives
admit that many voters, real preference would be the
outlawed OLF. With a lack of policy difference, the struggle
between the parties remains primarily a fight for power.
Visits with the local businessmen confirmed that in fact
investors can be successful given the political environment,
but that challenges stem not as much from the unrest as from
a lack of infrastructure and slow response from the local
government. END COMMENT.
HUDDLESTON