Friday, April 28, 2006

ION update: 04/28/06

The threat of the armed groups
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1179 29/04/2006

Although the armed actions by groups opposing the regime in Ethiopia are still very limited in number and in impact, the Addis Ababa Administration is taking them very seriously. Thus it was that about two weeks ago, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi met officers from the air force at the Debre Zeit base to explain to them that they should be ready to intervene against rebel groups. Several of these officers were unconvinced and told him that while they were prepared to bomb an enemy invading force, they felt it would be completely counterproductive to contemplate air strikes against small groups of anti-government rebels. These officers are also believed to have used the occasion to suggest to their Prime Minister that he release certain of their fighter pilot colleagues who have been imprisoned over the last two years. The Prime Minister was furious when he left them, promising that a new meeting would be held soon. This led the officers present to fear that reprisals, or even a purge, would be made against an army corps which has frequently been quite cautious in its relations with certain executives of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, ruling coalition).

ONLF pulls out all the stops
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1179 29/04/2006

The ONLF has revived its military activity and its diplomatic contacts.

Following the failure of several of its attempts to bring commandos into Ethiopia from Somaliland, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is trying to come back into the limelight. This group fighting for the independence of the Ogaden (in the west of Ethiopia) has claimed responsibility for several skirmishes with the Ethiopian armed forces these last few weeks. However, the extent of these confrontations has not been confirmed by independent sources. Even if its war communiqués are probably exaggerations, they do enable the ONLF to sustain its recent warnings to companies, particularly Indian companies, interested in exploring for oil and gas in the Ogaden.

In addition to this sabotage activity, the ONLF has revived its diplomatic contacts. Its leaders went on a European tour from the end of February to mid March, during which they met the Africa official of the Danish ministry for foreign affairs, Birger Fredriksson, officials from Norway and Finland and also visited several other countries. Then, the Vice President of the ONLF, Mohamed Ismaïl Omar, went to Washington at the beginning of April where he had meetings notably with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Donald Yamamoto and Congressman Mark Kennedy.

The chairman of the ONLF, “Admiral” Mohamed Omar Osman is a former head of the Somalian navy. Considered highly chauvinistic, he has lived in London before settling in Eritrea where over a thousand members of this movement undergo military training in camps in Kalena and Addis Meskal, near Tesseney.

Lobbying catches up with a US Republican
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1179 29/04/2006

An old skeleton has caught up with the former US Congress Member for Ohio, the Republican Bob McEwen (pictured right). McEwen, 56, had been hoping to make a political come-back in the primary on 2 May, when he is running against the outgoing Member of the House of Representatives, the Republican Jean Schmidt. To be sure, he had been a lobbyist for Eritrea in 2004 when he was working for Advantages Associates, a group of former Congressmen turned lobbyists. At the time he received $15,000 a month from Eritrea, totalling $120,000. Clearly, Schmidt’s team was more than happy to publicise this information. It pointed out the contradiction between McEwen claiming an alliance with certain leaders of the American Christian right while on the other hand lobbying for Eritrea, a country considered by the United States as persecuting Christians.

Dina Mufti, the former Ethiopian ambassador...
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1179 29/04/2006

Dina Mufti, the former Ethiopian ambassador to Zimbabwe has just presented his credentials as his country’s ambassador to Sweden, also in charge of other countries in Northern Europe. Mufti, 43, graduated in political science and international relations at Addis Ababa University (AAU) and then made further studies at Carleton University in Ottawa (Canada). He joined the Ethiopian ministry for foreign affairs in 1983. He has been on post in Washington as press counsellor at the Ethiopian embassy and later as director of press, information and general documentation in the ministry for foreign affairs in Addis Ababa.