Friday, April 14, 2006

ION update: 04/14/06

Opponents are angry with the American Democrats
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1177 15/04/2006

The way in which the Ethiopian Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy Act (HR 4423) was passed on 6 April by the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations has sparked off a debate within the Ethiopian community in the United States. This bill was proposed by the chairman of this subcommittee, the Republican Christopher H. Smith (pictured right). It was adopted by the six Republican members of the subcommittee but rejected by the four members of the Democratic Party (DP) although it is in fact supported by certain Democrat representatives. One of the Democrats rejecting it was Donald M. Payne (pictured below), who had put forward an alternative proposal. The Ethiopian embassy in the United States was offended by Smith’s words and welcomed Payne’s criticism of certain Ethiopian opponents. Meanwhile, the opponents were critical of the Democrats Representatives. To be sure, the HR 4423 intends to apply pressure on the Ethiopian government for it to respect human rights and the State of Law. Now certain Ethiopian Americans want the DP to pay for this vote and see an occasion to do so in supporting black Republican candidates in the November 2006 elections, such as Michael Steele (Maryland) and Keith Butler (Michigan) for the Senate and Lynn Swann and Ken Blackwell respectively for the posts of governor of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The opposition is rudderless
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1177 15/04/2006

Some opposition groups are trying to organise actions of civil disobedience, while others have their eye on Addis Ababa city hall.

Some opposition groups, such as the Tegbar League, has called their sympathisers in Ethiopia to organise actions of peaceful civil disobedience at the beginning of May, on the anniversary of the 2005 general election. Meanwhile, other opponents are in favour of participating in the institutions. More than 80 elected MPs members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) have already accepted to take up their seat in the Federal Parliament, while the principal leaders of their party are still in prison without trial.

For their part, the members of the EDUP Medhin (opposition) led by Lidetu Ayalew (pictured left), have submitted a request to the National Electoral Board (NEB) to be allowed to take charge of the administration of Addis Ababa. Indeed, the opposition had won all of the seats in the capital, but the government has not let them take charge of the administration of the city. Today, several of these elected municipal councillors are in prison and certain opponents are afraid that the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi might take advantage of this fact and organise new local elections and so put a pro-government administration in charge of the capital.

But for Lidetu Ayalew, such elections should only concern the replacement of posts of elected councillors who argue for a boycott and refuse to take up their seats and not those who, like Berhanu Nega and other leaders of the CUPD, cannot take up their seats because they are in prison.

For a long time Lidetu Ayalew has developed a radical position of boycotting Parliament in order to protest against the outcome of the elections last year. At the time, the other leaders of the CUDP were more moderate on this point. Lidetu was also opposed to the CUDP’s choice of Berhanu Nega as mayor of Addis Ababa. Now that the leaders of the CUDP are behind bars, Lidetu and his group have made a U-turn and in January decided to take up their seats in the Federal Parliament. This group has now just positioned itself as a candidate to run the Town Hall of Addis Ababa. This could give the government coalition a way out of the crisis. But it is by no means certain that it will use this opportunity.