Monday, February 20, 2006

ION update: 02/20/06

Mimi Sebhatu wins all the stakes in Ethiopia
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1169 18/02/2006

After having been one of the three firms to be short listed last year by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Agency (EBA) (ION 1133), Zami Public Connection is one of the lucky two winners of a license to operate a radio station on the FM waveband. This firm has good contacts with the current regime in Ethiopia. It is owned by the former reporter on Voice of America (VOA) Mimi Sebhatu and her husband Zerihun Teshome, who is also the general manager of the weekly publication in the Amharic language Iftin. The couple passes on the viewpoints of the Ethiopian authorities into the journalistic circles in Addis Ababa and to Ethiopians abroad. The second FM license was awarded to Tisae Fine Arts & Adei Promotion owned by the actor Abebe Balcha and his partners.

Dereje Bekele promoted
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1168 11/02/2006

The former independent MP Dereje Bekele has just obtained an official post. Bekele had joined the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM, opposition), led by Bulcha Demeksa, during the May 2005 elections, but was later expelled from the party. Last month he was appointed advisor on rural development issues to the office of Abadula Gemeda, the former Minister of Defence and the current head of the Oromia Regional State. Bekele had been a deputy minister on Oromia matters reporting to the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister during the transition regime at the beginning of the 1990s and subsequently worked for the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Corporation. After that, he distanced himself from the Ethiopian regime while nevertheless remaining a moderate opponent. He therefore quickly came into dispute with Demeksa and other OFDM leaders who accused him of supporting the government because he held the OFDM responsible for the current instability in the Oromia region. The OFDM then expelled him. He has now rallied behind Gemeda, who is the head of the Oromo People Democratic organizationon (OPDO, member of the governing coalition). This lends credence to Bekele's detractors who accuse him of wanting to turn the OFDM into a branch of the OPDO.

Meles Zenawi invites Louis Michel
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1169 18/02/2006

During his recent visit to Brussels, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia invited the European Commissioner Louis Michel to Addis Ababa.

The European Commissioner for Development Louis Michel is trying to take advantage of the momentum built up by the visit to Brussels on 4 February by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (ION 1168) to continue peace talks. During the visit, Zenawi invited Michel to Addis Ababa to see the situation in his country for himself. Michel considered his decision carefully and set a condition to accepting the invitation: that he be allowed to visit the imprisoned opposition leaders. The Ethiopian authorities gave their agreement on this point and Michel went to Addis Ababa from 15 to 17 February. He is to have a long meeting with Meles Zenawi on 16 February and then to go on to interview the political prisoners in the prison in Addis, making him the first foreign political official to do so. Michel should also have meetings with MPs, the families of political prisoners and the representatives of the European Union and the United States in Addis Ababa.

Michel aims to discuss with the Ethiopian authorities about the conditions for freeing the political prisoners, or at least bringing them to trial. It would appear that only the second option will be retained, as the Ethiopian Prime Minister is still staying firmly entrenched in his position on the imprisonment of the leaders of the Ethiopian opposition. In that case, the European Commissioner had planned to seek for the in-principle approval of having international observers to ensure a fair trial of these opposition members. A source at the European Commission in Brussels this week told The Indian Ocean Newsletter that the European Union may envisage discussing the resumption of its aid to Ethiopia. But that would be only after the Ethiopian authorities have given their assurances on this point of the presence of international observers at the opposition leaders' trial and the resumption of dialogue between the Ethiopian government and its political opposition.

Two American Democrat Congressmen support Asmara
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1169 18/02/2006

Two American Congressmen, members of the Democratic Party (DP) James P. Moran (Virginia) and Betty McCollun (Minnesota) this week brought their support to the Organization of Eritrean-Americans (OEA) which is waging a campaign for Ethiopia to implement the border agreement with Eritrea. The OEA organized a demonstration on 13 February in front of the US State Department to put pressure on the United States, the main witness to the Algiers agreement to have the 2002 ruling by Eritrean-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC) applied. Created in 1998 and based in Washington DC, the OEA sees itself as the voice of Eritrea to the American Administration and media. Betty McCollun, who is a member of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa Global Human Rights and International Operations, and James P. Moran sent the OEA a letter in which they both congratulated its members for bringing such a large group together at this demonstration.