Friday, March 31, 2006

ION update: 03/31/06

Ethiopia: The opposition’s difficult unity
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1175 01/04/2006

The attempts to form a united front of all of the main Ethiopian opposition organisations, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP), the Union of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), have come up against difficulty and resistance. The UEDF is particularly in favour of this idea since this was the organisation that proposed a joint conference of all of the opposition groupings. For its part, the leadership of the OLF is ready to discuss holding an opposition conference, but does not want this to be widely known for the time being. Indeed, the partisans of the former Secretary General of the OLF, Galassa Dilbo, have dug in their heels in a radical position and accuse the present chairman Dawud Ibsa Ayana of being prepared to sell out on defending the interests of the Oromos as soon as he forges a link with any non Oromo Ethiopian opposition groups. But the strongest reticence comes from within the CUDP. Thus, a joint meeting between the OLF, the UEDF and the CUPD, convened in Chicago (United States) by a group of Ethiopian intelligentsia for 1 April, finally had to be cancelled. A minority of the leaders of the CUDP in North America were strongly opposed to its being held. Furthermore, the leaders of the OLF are currently touring Europe and were unable to go to Chicago on the date the meeting was scheduled. Yet another setback for the long and difficult process of forming a united Ethiopian opposition.

Ethiopia/Eritrea: An embarrassing lobbyist
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1175 01/04/2006

The scandal in the United States involving the American lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has worked on behalf of Eritrea in the firm Greenberg Traurig, could have negative repercussions on the Republican Congressman for California, Dana Rohrabacher. The latter has become a specialist in introducing bills to impose sanctions on Ethiopia (ION 1127). At the beginning of the year, Abramoff pleaded guilty to various embezzlement charges and cut a deal to help the FBI in their investigations of a score of accusations of corruption levied against twenty Congressmen or their assistants. It just so happens that Rohrabacher is close to Abramoff and acted as guarantor when the latter bought a casino in 2000. These ties between the two men, as well as Rohrabacher’s links with Gebremedhin Berhane who is calling for the restitution of a property in Ethiopia nationalised by the previous regime, explain this American Congressman’s systematic attacks on the government of Addis Ababa.

Eritrea: An opponent unhappy
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1175 01/04/2006

The secretary general of the Eritrean Congress Party criticises the way the Eritrean Democratic Alliance intends to manage the aid from friendly countries.

The Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA, opposition) was created at the beginning of last year under the aegis of Sudan, Ethiopia and Yemen brought together in the Sanaa Forum for Peace, and receives aid from certain countries in the Horn of Africa which it has no intention of sharing with other Eritrean opposition groups. This is the gist of the reproach just made by Herui Tedla Bairu, the Secretary General of the Eritrean Congress Party (ECP, opposition, not a member of the EDA). An EDA leader, Hussein Khalifa, confirmed to him that the aid from the Sanaa Forum to the Eritrean opposition was only intended for organisations members of the EDA. Herui T. Bairu considered that the Sana Forum was overstepping its prerogatives in trying to favour one opposition current rather than another. This comes down to admitting that the countries in the region want the EDA exclusively to accede to power in Asmara.

Ethiopia/United Kingdom: Berhanu Kebede
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1175 01/04/2006

The new Ethiopian Ambassador to London, Berhanu Kebede, had hitherto been on post in Sweden, with accreditation for Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland. Born in 1956 in the Ethiopian capital, Berhanu Kebede is a graduate in economics from Addis-Abeba University (AAU) and a career diplomat. He joined the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1978 as desk officer in charge of relations with the European Union (EU). In 1983 he joined the Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels as trade attaché and participated in the negotiations for the Lome II and III agreements. In 1992 after the change of regime in Ethiopia, he returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa as Director for Western Europe with the rank of counsellor. The following year he became deputy director general and later director general for international organisations and economic cooperation. From 1993 to 2000 he participated in all of the African Union (AU) meetings and the General Assemblies of the United Nations until his appointment to the post of chargé d’affaires in Russia with the rank of Ambassador on 7 December 2000. He subsequently became Ambassador to Sweden in February 2002. Married and father of three, Berhanu Kebede speaks English and French as well as Amharic. His predecessor in London, Fisseha Adugna, resigned from the diplomatic service to go to the United States with his family. Officially, he did this for personal reasons, but certain observers consider that he preferred to distance himself from the present political regime in Ethiopia.