Monday, December 18, 2006

Jailed opposition told to dissociate from AFD

Now why would imprisoned CUDP leaders who are intellectuals and part of the civil society decline to dissociate themselves from armed opposition groups? Something is missing from this report.

Somalia as a backdrop
Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1204 16/12/2006

Meles Zenawi is trying to moderate his internal opposition so as to have his hands free to handle the inevitable armed conflict with Somalian Islamists.

Several initiatives are currently under way to find a way out of the internal political crisis in Ethiopia. Thus, Ephraim Isaac (photo), a Falasha (Ethiopian Jew) living in the United States where he heads the Institute of Semitic Studies at Princeton University and is chairman of the Peace and Development Committee for Ethiopia and the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America, last month visited the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) in prison in Addis-Ababa. He presented himself to them as a “non-partisan” emissary, sent by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to ask them to dissociate themselves officially from the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, armed opposition). In return they would be freed before the end of the year. The imprisoned leaders rejected this offer but are nevertheless believed to be divided over it. Particularly since at least two of them, Hailu Shawel and Mesfin Woldemariam, are in poor health.

Furthermore, also according to our sources, discreet negotiations are under way between pro and anti-government Ethiopian intellectuals. These informal discussions have set the members of the Citizens’ Charter Group (CCG) against the intellectuals with ties to the regime in place, such as Professor Bahru Zewde in Addis Ababa. The CCG was formed by a dozen CUDP partisans (including Abate Kassa, Berhanu Abegaz, Elias Wondimu, Fekadu Fullas and Mammo Muchie) and recently issued a call to form a government of national unity in Ethiopia (ION 1201). Last week Zewde went to Paris for a meeting with, among others, Pr Mammo Muchie and Tecle Zerihun from Unesco. Some of these intellectuals have ties with Ephraim Isaac.

At the end of the 1999s, Ephraim Isaac had founded an Elders Peace Committee and undertook mediation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, without being able to prevent an armed border conflict from breaking out.

UPDATE: In written response to the second half of the above ION article, Professors Bahru Zewde, Mammo Muchie and Tecle Zerihun from UNESCO protest the facts behind the report.