Saturday, September 30, 2006

ION update: 09/30/06

The political bigwigs in Addis Ababa
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1196 30/09/2006

While some Western embassies had been expecting Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to make a substantial changes in the teams leading the various factions of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF in power in Addis Ababa), the outcome of the congresses of these parties was something of an anticlimax. Some minor changes were made at the top of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) without changing the overall balance of power. The changes among the leaders of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO) were purely cosmetic and the team leading the Southern Ethiopia People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM) remained in control, in spite of an increase in the number of members of the executive of this organisation’s, which incidentally is quite marginal in the governing coalition.

Exit Sebhat Nega. The only new member of the nine man executive council (EC) of the TPLF, chaired by Meles Zenawi, is the Minister of Health Tewodros Adhanom Gebreyesus. He is the first leader of this party not to be the outcome of the guerrilla war waged against the previous Ethiopian regime. A graduate in biology from Asmara University (1986), and then with higher degrees in immunology from the University of London (1992) and community health from the University of Nottingham (2000), he was deputy minister of health before becoming the minister in October 2005 after the elections last year. His promotion was coupled with the demotion of Sebhat Nega, who had for a long time been the Prime Minister’s grey eminence. He left the TPLF EC and is now in 36th place among the 45 members of the central committee (CC), of which his sister Kidusan Nega is also a member. For the remainder, the TPLF executive team has not changed very much. But some people have left the CC (Tesema Gebre Hiwot, Alem Gebre Wahid, Tekle Berhan Araya and Aklilu Damberkai) and the Prime Minister’s wife Azeb Mesfin has joined. Although hated by Seyoum Mesfin (TPLF deputy chairman), Roma Gebre Sellasie (wife of Ambassador Tewolde Gebru, also a member of the TPLF CC), Adhana Haile and Berhane Kidane Mariam (publisher of the TPLF house newspaper) kept their seat on the party’s CC.

Bereket Simeon hands over power. The advisor to the Prime Minister, Bereket Simeon, who is sick, has handed over his seat of deputy chairman of the ANDM to the Minister Tefera Walwa but remains a member of its EC. This team is chaired by Addisu Legesse and includes the leaders of the Amhara Regional State - Ayalew Gobeze and Yoseph Reta - the Minister of Information, Birhan Hailu, the director of the Bahr Dr Management Institute, Ambachew Mekonnen, the representative of the Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission at Bahr Dar, Demeke Mekonnen and some less well-known people like Yohannes Buayalew. Some heavyweight former dignitaries, including some ex-ministers who have become ambassadors (Kebede Tadesse, Tadesse Kassa, Genet Zewde, Dawit Yohannes and Hilawe Yosef) are still members of the ANDM CC.

Change in continuity. Long in internal crisis, the OPDO is still headed by the duo Abadula Gemeda/Girma Biru. The disgraced and the rehabilitated former leader Kuma Demeksa, is also a member of the OPDO CE, as are Shiferaw Jarso and Juneidi Saddo and the Ministers Aster Mammo Negewo and Muktar Kedir. Among the newly promoted figure the former administrator of the Western Wollega region, Zelalem Jamaneh and the former head of the bureau of agriculture and rural development of Oromia Regional State, Driba Kuma. On the other hand, the name of Ali Abdo and a few other former Oromo dignitaries are no longer on the official list of OPDO executive. The Minister Sufian Ahmed has had to be content with a seat on the CC, as have two former members of the OPDO EC, Mohamed Hassen and Alemayehu Atomsa. The SEPDM is still chaired by Hailemariam Desalegn with Shiferaw Shigute as his number two and a handful of government personalities in his CE, such as the Speaker of Parliament Teshome Toga, Kassu Illala, the Ministers Berhanu Adelo and Siraj Fegessa and also the head of the bureau for industry and urban development of the regional administration of south Ethiopia, Mekuria Haile.

Home Affairs goes to Mogadishu
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1196 30/09/2006

According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter from a diplomatic source, some officers from the Eritrean ministry of defence and officials from the Eritrean intelligence services were preparing to go to Mogadishu (Somalia) this week. These Eritrean servicemen will probably not be content with merely studying the local situation, but will most likely provide support to the forces of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) to help them counter a possible sizeable Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia. According to the same source, embittered Eritrean soldiers and Ethiopian opponents trained in guerrilla fighting by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) will probably also be transported to Mogadishu by the Asmara regime. Some combatants from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, Ethiopian opposition) may do likewise. Certain Eritrean servicemen en route for Mogadishu this week may transit via Djibouti.

Meseret Defar breaks 3000m record

Meseret Defar broke the world 3,000metres road-running record at the Newcastle/Gateshead meeting on Saturday with a time of eight minutes 46.9seconds.

Tyne records for Defar and Mottram (Coventry Evening Telegraph) September 30, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Meskel holiday celebrated

Unlike more violent episodes last year, and despite a few rock-throwers, Tuesday's religious celebration in Ethiopia was held largely without incident.

Ethiopia religious holiday unusually quiet (Middle East Times) September 27, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Haile and Gete sweep Berlin Marathon

Winner runs fastest time in world this year: Haile Gebrselassie won Sunday's Berlin Marathon on a course where records have fallen of late, and Gete Wami made it an Ethiopian sweep by capturing the women's division.

..."I will break the record someday," Gebrselassie said.

Marathon winner runs fastest time in world this year (Seattle Times) September 25, 2006

Friday, September 22, 2006

ION update: 09/22/06

Meles' former chief of protocol defects
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ’s former head of protocol, who had accompanied him on several international State visits, has defected. According to Diplomatic sources, Addis Abadi Tesfaye , who had become Consular Attaché of the Ethiopian embassy in Ottawa (Canada) has recently left his post and asked for political asylum in the United States. He is not the only person to have done so. Daniel Ikubesillasie , third secretary and financial attaché of the Ethiopian embassy in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) did likewise.

Army officers defect
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

Following the defections by several diplomats (see p.4) and a number of dignitaries from the ministry of justice, it is now the turn of several high ranking officers in the Ethiopian armed forces to leave the EPRDF government in power in Addis Ababa. To begin with, last month there was the defection of the Oromo General Kemal Gelchu who went to Eritrea. Two high ranking officers have now done likewise and joined the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an armed opposition group, member of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD). They are General Hailu Gonfa who worked at the Ethiopian ministry of defence and Colonel Gemechu Ayana, Commander of the 8th mechanised force. The two officers justified their defection in a communiqué issued on 14 September and carried by the official Eritrean media and Ethiopian opponent web sites, stating that “the armed forces have been systematically reduced to protecting the narrow interests of a small clique determined to cling to power at all costs”. They announced in it that they were rallying behind the OLF and called on Ethiopian servicemen to follow their example and “join the just and popular struggle” of the AFD. According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter in Berlin, a third Tigrayan officer from Ethiopia, Major Yemane Tesfaye, has just asked for political asylum in Germany. He was a member of the security forces specialised in analysing information and radio communication and had been sent by the Ethiopian government to Germany to undergo training by the Bunderswehr at the Murnau military base near Munich. He left the base last week and is now in a refugee camp while waiting for the German authorities to decide on his request for political asylum.

A former Marxist at the bank
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

One of Meles Zenawi’s grey eminences, a former Marxist-Leninist ideologist, has just joined the board of directors of the Development Bank of Ethiopia.

Since the beginning of August Abay Tsehaye, special advisor to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in charge of mobilising the population, has joined the board of the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) whose chairman is the Minister of Revenues Melaku Fenta. Abay Tsehaye has pulled himself up these last few years into the group of people close to the President, becoming one of the principle dignitaries in the regime, after having been in disgrace for a period.

An executive of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, in power in Addis Ababa) and former Minister of Federal Affairs, Abay Tsehaye had joined the politburo of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the governing coalition) in September 2003. He hence returned to the role of political mentor he had had in this party two decades earlier, when he was the brains behind the Melallit, a small clandestine Marxist-Leninist organisation which formed the kernel of the TPLF, aligning it on the Stalinist line of the then President of Albania, Enver Hodja.

However, after the war with Eritrea from 1998 to 2000 Abay Tsehaye had a common cause with the TPLF dissidents who then defended an ultra-nationalist position, opposing Meles Zenawi. Consequently, he found himself put into the sidelines. Nevertheless, whereas the other dissidents were sacked from their functions and also excluded from the TPLF, Abay Tsehaye made honourable amends with Meles Zenawi and rallied behind him. This led to his being readmitted to the central committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and subsequently being given the portfolio of Minister for Federal Affairs. Since then, he has not ceased to rise in importance in the circles of the Ethiopian executive.

French Consul looking for volunteers
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1195 23/09/2006

Things don’t always go the way Franck Simaer , the French Consul in Addis Ababa, would like. A few months back he worked hard to gather data from French expats living in Addis Ababa so that he could devise a new security plan for this community, based on dividing up Addis Ababa into six security zones (ION 1174). Now he is back at work looking for people to coordinate this security plan in these zones. He has just put out a call to the French community in Addis Ababa to find heads of security zones, nevertheless pointing out that this is unpaid voluntary activity, but which is fully compatible with normal working and family life, whose purpose is primarily that of helping the French embassy keep in contact with French nationals in each zone.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

'Lucy's baby' found in Ethiopia

The 3.3-million-year-old fossilised remains of a human-like child have been unearthed in Ethiopia's Dikika region.

The female Australopithecus afarensis bones are from the same species as an adult skeleton found in 1974 which was nicknamed "Lucy".

'Lucy's baby' found in Ethiopia (BBC) 20 September, 2006

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ethiopia's Ancient Christian Kingdoms

Slide Show: Ethiopia's Ancient Christian Kingdoms

...Lalibela, Ethiopia, is a dirt-poor mountain village that has remained essentially unchanged for a millennium. The churches there are the most remarkable part of what Ethiopians call "the historic tour" — a several-day circuit through ancient Christian kingdoms.

Ethiopia Opens Its Doors, Slowly (New York Times) September 17, 2006

More Army officers defect

Two senior Ethiopian army officers have defected to join the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the rebel group says.

The two are Brig Gen Hailu Gonfa (pictured right) and Col Gemechu Ayana, who commanded the Eighth Mechanized Division.

However, Ethiopian officials said they had no knowledge of the reports. Last month Brig Gen Kemal Geltu also joined the Eritrea-backed OLF.

Ethiopian officers 'join rebels' (BBC) 15 September, 2006

ION update: 09/16/06

A dignitary goes shopping in Paris
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1194 16/09/2006

An official of the governing coalition EPRDF and member of the central committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, the dominant party in Addis Ababa) went shopping in the luxury stores in Paris this week. He made a stop in Paris on his way home from the United States, spending almost 18,000 euros (over 190,000 birrs) since the beginning of this week on perfume, women’s clothes and handbags in Champs Elysée Sephora, Louis Vuitton to name but a few.

Friday, September 08, 2006

ION update: 09/09/06

Spate of defections continues
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1193 09/09/2006

The Ethiopian army, judiciary and diplomatic corps are still subject to numerous defections of employees and officials who go into exile to the United States.

After the defection at the beginning of August of the Oromo General Kemal Gelchu, more departures into exile have followed among Ethiopian diplomats and other top officials in the government of Addis Ababa. A Deputy Attorney General Alemayehu Zemedkun thus fled to the United States at the beginning of August where he asked for political asylum. Zemedkun, 41, left his wife and two children in Addis Ababa and fled to the USA after the Ethiopian authorities had asked him to take over the case of the charges against the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) imprisoned in Addis Ababa. He had attempted to convince his superiors, including the Minister of Justice Shemeles Kemale, that there was no case to answer, but to no avail. He then decided to go into exile. Since then, his testimony on Internet web sites and Ethiopian opposition blogs has shed a blunt light on the actions and attitudes of the Ethiopian executives, such as the minister of justice.

Some tens of defections have taken place lately in Ethiopian diplomatic circles. Meanwhile, suspicion has gone up a notch inside the ministry for foreign affairs about diplomats not felt to be sufficiently docile with the regime in place in Addis Ababa. Matters got even worse after revelations in the international media of confidential documents written by a foreign affairs ministry high official on its propaganda strategy. Some Ethiopian opponents have been able to draw up a list of 59 names of diplomats who have defected these last few months. They include two former Ambassadors (Yohanes Genda and Fleshes Adugna Wordofa) a few ministerial counsellor and a large number of junior diplomats. Among the latest defections to date are those of a diplomat in the Ethiopian embassy to India, of Biruk Hailu plenipotentiary minister to the embassy in Paris and Gizachew Bizuayehu, counsellor. The wife of the former Ambassador Kassahun Ayele is also believed to be filing her request for political asylum in the United States.

The majority of these diplomats complain about the management methods of their hierarchical superiors, of the generalised climate of suspicion that reins in the Ethiopian embassies and the obscure role of certain Tigrayan diplomats of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF in power in Addis Ababa) operating as true political commissionaires. General Kemal Gelchu, who fled to Eritrea along with twenty other Ethiopian servicemen, is for his part expected to join the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, armed opposition). He accuses the actions of the Tigrayan hierarchy in the Ethiopian army and has revealed the growing level of discontent among non-Tigrayan soldiers.