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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ADDISABABA2866
2006-10-26 09:41:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

ETHIOPIA: INDEPENDENT INQUIRY COMMISSION REPORT TO

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  PHUM  ET 
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FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3022
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 002866 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: INDEPENDENT INQUIRY COMMISSION REPORT TO
BE SUBMITTED - CONCLUDES 193 CIVILIANS DEAD, NO USE OF
EXCESSIVE FORCE BY GOE

REF: ADDIS ABABA 02522

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 002866

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: INDEPENDENT INQUIRY COMMISSION REPORT TO
BE SUBMITTED - CONCLUDES 193 CIVILIANS DEAD, NO USE OF
EXCESSIVE FORCE BY GOE

REF: ADDIS ABABA 02522


1. (C) SUMMARY: In a meeting with Mekonnen Dilgasa, head of
the Independent Inquiry Commission, Charge and Staffdel
Phelan sought insight into the commission's official findings
and the conditions surrounding submission of the final report
in light of two previous commission members having sought
asylum abroad. The meeting with Mekonnen was arranged by
Ethiopian Ambassador Samuel Assefa to provide Charge a
briefing on the official IIC report, which is due to be
publicly released during the coming week. The meeting
provided Charge and Staffdel Phelan an opportunity, prior to
the report being officially released, to probe about possible
discrepancies between the official report and the allegedly
leaked IIC documents that were published on the internet.
Mekonnen explained that, contrary to media reports, no
previous report existed but that some of the documents that
have been leaked are in fact legitimate. He said that the
final report concludes that while 193 people were killed in
the clashes between security forces and protesters in June
and November 2005, excessive force was not used. Mekonnen
said he does not know why the two former commission members
fled the country, but that their reports of pressure by the
GoE to influence the commission's findings are not true )
they had full cooperation from the government. The
commission members will address the media on October 26 and
they will appear before the Parliament on October 30. (Note:
After the Commission meets with the press, scheduled for
October 26, this cable can be declassified and marked as
sensitive, but unclassified. End Note.) END SUMMARY.


2. (C) On October 25, Charge, together with Senate staffer
Michael Phelan and Poloff (note taker), met with the acting
Chairman of the Independent Inquiry Commission, Mekonnen
Dilgasa. Mekonnen was accompanied by the Ethiopian
Ambassador to the United States, Samuel Assefa. The

Independent Inquiry Commission (IIC) was established by
Parliament to investigate the civic unrest and related
violence that took place in Addis Ababa and other urban areas
in Ethiopia in June and November 2005.

--------------
CHAIRMAN BY DEFAULT
--------------


3. (C) Mekonnen took over the IIC Chairmanship after the
previous Chairman and Deputy Chairman, Frehiwot Samuel and
Wolde-Michael Meshesa, left Ethiopia reportedly to seek
asylum in Germany. Following their departure, there have
been reports in the media, stemming from interviews with
Wolde-Michael, that a version of the report had been agreed
upon in July (prior to Frehiwot and Wolde-Michael's
departure) that identified 193 deaths resulting from the
violence, and that the GoE had used excessive force (reftel).
Wolde-Michael said in his interview that the clashes were
&similar to a massacre8 and that he fled Ethiopia to &tell
the truth about the commission's findings.8 Frehiwot has
not yet publicly discussed the work of the IIC or his
reported asylum request.

--------------
CONTEXT SWINGS THE VOTE
--------------


4. (C) In discussing the work of the IIC prior to submission
of the official report, Mekonnen said that, in fact, there
had been no previously completed report, as suggested in the
media. He confirmed that the document published online that
outlined the name of each of the dead as well and the cause
of death are legitimate though. He reported that it was
using this document that the IIC held its first vote on
whether the GoE used excessive force. However, at that time
they did not have the "qualitative information" or "context"
that was ultimately used to complete the final report; rather
they had only the "quantitative data" on the number of dead.
He acknowledged that for that vote, 8 of the 10 members voted
that excessive force was used, while 2 (including Mekonnen)
voted that it was not used. Since the time of that vote, and
over the course of the IIC's work, Mekonnen said that they
had made many "subdecisions" on various aspects of the
findings. However, until the final decision in September,
none of the previous votes considered the qualitative and

ADDIS ABAB 00002866 002 OF 003


contextual information, which includes the extent of
provocation by the protesters, the variety of weapons they
used, and the resulting threat faced by the police during the
clashes. The final vote concluded that excessive force was
not used, which is stated in the report. He said that vote
was 8-0 for such a conclusion. Mekonnen pointed out though
that the report contains a number of suggestions for the GoE,
as well as incidents the IIC recommend should be investigated
further. An official English version of the report will be
made available soon.

-------------- --------------
SOME LEAKED INFO LEGITIMATE, NO REASON FOR 2 TO FLEE
-------------- --------------


5. (C) Charge and Staffdel Phelan asked Mekonnen about
possible discrepancies between what was released on the
internet and what was finally issued in the report. Mekonnen
said that there is no difference and that the 193 deaths they
found to be a result of the clashes are in the report.
(NOTE: This amount is in excess of the previous GoE accounts,
which put the dead closer to 50. END NOTE) When asked about
the difference between the GoE,s previous reports on the
number of dead and the IIC's, Mekonnen said that the GoE
likely did not have the same access as the IIC and that the
"situation was not conducive" to a proper investigation by
the government. He went on to say that, as a result of
interviewing GoE officials, family members of the dead,
reviewing death certificates from the city records, and
requesting input from Parliamentarians, the IIC received
nearly 3,400 documents, all of which will be submitted as
supporting evidence of their report. Mekonnen also
acknowledged that much of the work was videotaped and that
transcripts were made, which may have been leaked by Frehiwot
or Wolde-Michael.


6. (C) Mekonnen told Charge and Staffdel Phelan that he does
not know why Frehiwot and Wolde-Michael fled the country. He
said that during their time working together on the IIC,
nether reported receiving death threats or displeasure with
their position on the commission. Mekonnen added that the
IIC had not received pressure from the GoE to alter the
report, as reported. Contrarily, he said they received full
cooperation from all officials, including the Addis Ababa
Police Commissioner and PM Meles Zenawi. He dismissed
reports that the IIC offices had been surrounded by security
officials, the electricity being cut off, and other alleged
means of GoE intimidation. He did say though that it has
been difficult on all IIC members due to pressure from
friends and family. He explained that many have received
accusations of working for the GoE and charges that they are
not independent. He maintains that he is neutral and that,
despite this pressure, he and the remaining 8 members felt a
duty to their country to complete their work, no matter how
difficult. He suggested that Frehiwot and Wolde-Michael
perhaps eventually succumbed to this pressure, leading to
their fleeing the country. Nonetheless, Mekonnen expressed
disappointment that his fellow IIC members would violate
their code of ethics and leak information about the report to
the media before the official submission of the report.

-------------- --------------
COMMENT: HARD WORK FOR MEKONNEN AND GOE TO CONTINUE
-------------- --------------


7. (C) During the meeting Mekonnen was clearly conscious of
being "on the record" for his comments and hesitant to speak
for fellow commission members, but nonetheless provided a
great deal of insight into the commission's processes. He
also confirmed and dispelled various information that has
been published on the internet regarding the IIC's findings
and the alleged pressure from the GoE. On the surface,
Mekonnen comes across as the neutral person he claims to be,
critical of some government action, while also denouncing the
actions taken by the protesters. He seemed exhausted by the
work that IIC entailed, and appeared to be emotionally hurt
by the harassment from friends and family he received. He
also was clearly not looking forward to facing questioning by
the press and Parliamentarians. There is sure to be a great
deal of skepticism about the findings of the IIC and the
report's conclusions because of the leaked video and
corresponding transcript. Yet the final report conclusions,

ADDIS ABAB 00002866 003 OF 003


except for that of excessive force, are similar. A good job
has been done to ensure a thorough investigation that, in the
end, shows that the events of June and November cannot be
credited entirely to one side or the other. This will
undoubtedly call the GoE to account for these numbers and put
pressure on the IIC to explain its findings and conclusion.
HUDDLESTON