Monday, January 16, 2006

ION update: 01/16/06

Confusion among the opposition
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1164 14/01/2006

The Ethiopian opposition is in a bad way. The Congress for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) is in tatters, its offices closed by the police and its leadership decapitated by the arrest of its principal leaders, to whom the courts are still refusing to grant bail. No alternative executive for the CUDP has surfaced to replace the arrested leaders and this opposition force has gone into a state of a sort of enforced hibernation. This has created a political vacuum, which the Ethiopian Democratic Unity Party-Medhin (EDUP-Medhin) is trying to fill, but this group is itself subject to division. Its faction led by Lidetu Ayalew finally decided, last week, that its elected members should take up their seats in the Federal Parliament and the Addis Ababa city council, where the opposition won all the seats in the May 2005 general election. Indeed, the EDUP-Medhin has always contested the CUDP’s choice of Berhanu Nega as the future mayor of Addis Ababa and certain people are taking advantage of his imprisonment to try to take his place. But the EDUP-Medhin faction loyal to Admassu Gebeyehu appears to want to set conditions to its participation in the administration of the capital in the present circumstances. Thus it was that a recent meeting of CUDP elected members called for Berhanu Nega and 15 other imprisoned opposition leaders to be freed, as a prior condition to any discussion with the government about the future municipal administration of Addis Ababa. For its part, the Union of Ethiopian Democratics Forces (UEDF, opposition) has scheduled a conference in Washington on 13 and 14 January, at which all of the members of its council, except for Beyene Petros and Merera Gudina, will be present. The UEDF is not expected to give ground on its opposition to the Ethiopian government; rather it is expected to decide to elect a new chairman and deputy chairman and condemn Beyene Petros’s decision to take up his seat in the Ethiopian Federal Parliament.