Saturday, February 25, 2006

ION update: 02/25/06

Lukewarm success for UEDF, snubbed by CUDP
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1170 25/02/2006

Response was lukewarm for the UEDF’s call to hold a joint conference of all the political parties and create a joint task force to organise it.

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and other Ethiopian small opposition groups in exile appears to have given a good welcome to the call recently issued by the Union of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) to hold a conference of all the political parties (ION 1165) and create a joint task force to prepare for it. But the same cannot be said for the executive of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) in the United States, which completely rejected this idea through an official letter from their executive in Washington D.C., Major Yosef, a former member of the EDU. The executives of the CUDP in the USA informed their counterparts on the UEDF that “the Ethiopian people were mobilised behind the CUD’s eight point demands” and that they had neither the mandate nor the time to attend a conference of all parties. This attitude consisted of snubbing an initiative that had not been initiated by them. It was confirmed by the head of the CUDP for North America, Berhanu Mewa. Speaking at a public meeting in San Jose, he stated that his party was fully capable of acting alone and therefore had no intention of cooperating with the UEDF. It is true that the CUDP leadership in the United States has iron nerves: it is at the head of a war fund estimated at $700,000 collected from the Ethiopian Diaspora. However, the CUDP’s refusal to cooperate with the UEDF does nothing to settle the party’s internal problems. It had been effectively decapitated by the imprisonment of its leaders and is still hesitant as to what strategy to adopt vis-à-vis the Ethiopian government. To be sure, the CUDP has been deeply divided since a large number of its elected MPs (89 to date) have accepted to take up their seat in Parliament whereas others are maintaining their decision to boycott this institution.

Delegation going to Ethiopia to find out how journalists are treated
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1170 25/02/2006

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ, an NGO based in New York) is to send a delegation to Ethiopia on a mission to find out how journalists are treated there. It will be led by Julia Crawford, coordinator of CPJ’s Africa program and is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa in the first week in March. Crawford and two other members of the CPJ (Gwen Ifill and Frank Smyth) met the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Kassahun Ayele on 22 December 2005 to call for the 16 journalists then imprisoned in Ethiopia to be freed and to discuss the preparations for their mission there. Three years ago the CPJ had already sent the then head of its Africa program on a fact-finding mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Ethiopian opponents in Asmara
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1168 11/02/2006

A partisan of the previous Ethiopian regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam has drawn closer to a group of Ethiopian opponents based in Asmara.

The interest Alem Zewd holds in the Ethiopian Patriotic Front (EPF, group of Ethiopian opponents based in Asmara) is on the up. A former Member of the Ethiopian Parliament and partisan of former President Mengistu Haile Mariam, Alem Zewd once again visited Eritrea. He claims to represent the EPF, whose true President, Colonel Imru Wonde, is undergoing treatment in a Washington hospital after a stroke. Wonde is therefore unable to confirm or deny Alem Zewd’s supposed role in this front, whose situation appears to have improved somewhat since the blow-out of the Ethiopian political crisis after the May 2005 elections. Nevertheless, the EPF is still subject to the strict control by Eritrean officials, affected to this task by the Asmara authorities.

The current leader of the EPF in Asmara is a former teacher from Wello named Getachew. He replaces Aberu Atalay, also known by the name of Meskerem, who is believed to be in hospital in Germany. Two former EPF leaders, Colonel Tadesse and Tesfaye Getachew are out of the game: the first is under house arrest and the second is believed to have been liquidated by the Eritrean authorities. In the field, the EPF elements are divided into two groups, one of which rejects the finicky control by Eritrea while the other accepts to be put under close scrutiny by the authorities of Asmara. Alem Zewd is working with the EPF faction that is under the thumb of Eritrea, although in the past he has been suspected of sympathising with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the hard core of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the coalition in power in Addis Ababa.