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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ADDISABABA1743
2006-06-26 08:28:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

ETHIOPIA: A/S FRAZER DISCUSSES DEMOCRATIC CLIMATE

Tags:   PGOV  KPKO  SO  ET 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO0163
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1743/01 1770828
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 260828Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1291
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001743 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/25/2016
TAGS: PGOV KPKO SO ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: A/S FRAZER DISCUSSES DEMOCRATIC CLIMATE
WITH OPPOSITION LEADERS

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES VICKI HUDDLESTON FOR REASONS 1.4. (B)
AND (D)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Leaders from major Ethiopian opposition
parties gathered at the Charge,s residence June 24 to brief
A/S Frazer on the current political climate for the
opposition, including the status of negotiations with the GoE
on reforms to Parliamentary rules. Opposition leaders were
split on whether the GoE had offered enough in talks, with
the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) expressing
relative satisfaction and the United Ethiopian Democratic
Forces (UEDF) still holding out for more. The Charge and A/S
Frazer reiterated to the leaders that they must work together
in order to strengthen their bargaining position and to best
represent their constituents. A/S Frazer expressed concern
at reports that the party representatives are restricted by
the GoE from having access to their voters, stressing that
having direct access to constituents is a fundamental aspect
of democracy. In discussions on matters of foreign policy,
particularly in the region, A/S Frazer urged parliamentarians
to reach out to their counterparts in other parts of East
Africa in order to overcome the information gap that exists
between governments and parliaments in British-based
parliamentary systems. END SUMMARY.



2. (U) On June 24, A/S Frazer and the Charge met with the
leaders from the primary opposition groups in Ethiopia.
Pol/Econ Counselor, PAO, Special Assistant Kendra Gaither,
Djibouti and Somalia Desk Officer Nole Garey and Poloff
joined the meeting. The CUDP was represented by Temesgen
Zewdie and Ayele Chamiso, the UEDF by Beyene Petros and
Merera Gudina and the OFDM by Bulcha Demeksa. Former
President Negaso Gidada, an independent MP, also attended.



--------------------------


SEEKING AGREEMENT ON PARLIAMENTARY REFORMS


--------------------------





3. (C) The meeting began with each of the party
representatives giving their own readout on the status of the
talks on parliamentary procedures reform. The ruling
Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)
party had opened discussions earlier in the week with
opposition parties to negotiate on details of a package of
parliamentary reforms based on recommendations by an
international advisory group (represented by Germany, UK,
Canada and India). CUDP leaders, who concluded negotiations
with the EPRDF on June 21, said they had not gotten
everything they wanted, but had made some important gains.
Beyene, however, informed A/S Frazer that the EPRDF had
refused to give in to their demands. After he had explained
the details of remaining disagreements, the Charge pointed
out that many UEDF complaints were not part the package

originally suggested by the international experts (e.g. right
to stage a walk-out of parliament), but some were in fact
important (e.g. having necessary quorum to introduce
legislation). (NOTE: The UEDF and the OFDM had refused
(contrary to the Charge,s urging) to negotiate at the same
table with the CUDP. In past meetings with the Charge and
Emboffs, they indicated they &would get a better deal8 by
negotiating separately. In fact, after two days of meetings
with the EPRDF on June 22 and 23, the talks between the EPRDF
and the UEDF/OFDM ended in a stalemate. END NOTE.)



4. (U) Beyene and Merera indicated that they would meet one
more time on June 26 with the EPRDF to attempt to move
forward with reforms. The EPRDF planned to put a final
package forward to the parliament on June 27. A/S Frazer and
Charge urged the opposition parties to work together and
focus on issues which were included in recommendations of
international experts. This was not a time to play hard ball
with the ruling party to score points, but rather was a
significant opportunity to advance the rule of law in
Ethiopia.



--------------------------


EPRDF RESTRICTIONS ON OPPOSITION PARTIES


--------------------------





5. (C) Responding to questions by A/S Frazer regarding
opposition parties, abilities to properly represent
constituencies, all representatives expressed frustrations at
restrictions placed on them by the GoE. Specifically, they
explained that none of them have been able to travel to their
home regions in order to meet with their constituents. They
had thus been blocked from understanding the opinions and
interests of their districts. They reported being told by
local EPRDF officials that since the were federal

ADDIS ABAB 00001743 002 OF 002


parliamentarians, they did not need to travel to other
regions; their business was in Addis Ababa. When asked how
they were actually prevented from going, Dr. Beyene explained
that: 1) regional officials make it known that the police
&cannot be responsible for their safety8; 2) they could not
call meetings of their constituents; and 3) the regional
governments (which are appointed by the GoE) refused to meet
with them on local matters. The opposition leaders pointed
out that the approximately 15 million voters that they
represented did not have their voices heard in parliament and
that leaders could not properly represent them.



6. (C) Temesgen also raised the issue of the recent,
arbitrary appointment by the government of new board to
oversee state media. He reported that on June 22, the day
after his party finished parliamentary procedure talks with
the EPRDF, the EPRDF rammed through parliament the
appointment of the media board with little input from the
opposition. Temesgen complained that his constituents, who
have access to primarily government media, do not hear how
the CUDP is representing them. He later revealed, however,
that a ruling party official had contacted him to request a
nomination from the CUDP to the media board, which he had
provided. Nevertheless, Temesgen complained that this kind
of informal consultation was inadequate and did not
contribute to a spirit of confidence and bipartisanship.



--------------------------


LIMITED INFORMATION ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS


--------------------------





7. (C) A/S Frazer gave opposition leaders her assessment of
political issues in Ethiopia as well as some views on
regional peace and stability. She pointed out that the
current cross-border issues with Eritrea and Somalia could
dramatically affect domestic Ethiopian political matters.
Opposition leaders expressed their gratitude for the
information, and for the concern that A/S Frazer demonstrated
for Ethiopia. However, they also conveyed frustration that
they received important information on foreign affairs only
from the USG reps or the media, rather than directly from the
GoE. They claimed they were kept in the dark on such matters
by the GoE and were not consulted by the ruling party. A/S
Frazer said she saw similarities to other British-based
parliamentary systems in the region; there were not good
mechanisms for the exchange of such foreign policy
information. She suggested however, that post might be able
to assist in establishing contacts with opposition parties in
Kenyan and Uganda to share information on regional political
matters. This idea was enthusiastically accepted by
opposition representatives.
HUDDLESTON