Saturday, February 17, 2007

Asmara's Ethiopian allies in trouble

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1208 17/02/2007
The attempts by the Eritrean authorities to manipulate certain Ethiopian opposition groups to their advantage have only worsened internal splits inside these groups.
In spite of the victorious military communiqués issued by Asmara, the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF, Ethiopian armed opposition), whose members undergo training in Eritrea, is not always in a position to carry out military operations in Ethiopia that can make a serious dent in the Ethiopian armed forces. In fact, this group has completely fallen apart internally. Some of its members accuse the commander Meskeram Atalay of abandoning them to flee to Germany where he has settled after initially going there for medical treatment. They also call for the expulsion of Mussie Tegegne, whom they consider responsible for the internal split in their movement and the arrest of EPPF combatants by the Eritrean authorities.
The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), another Ethiopian opposition movement supported by Eritrea, is also subject to internal divergence. The friction is aggravated by the fiasco of Eritrean collaboration with the Somalian Islamists to create in Somalia a point of entry into Ethiopia for armed opposition groups like the OLF. Daoud Ibsa, president of the OLF, had already been considered too dependent on Eritrean strategy by a meeting of OLF partisans in Oslo in mid-December, which he did not attend. He is globally reproached for having operated policies which marginalised the OLF in the 2005 general election. The Oromo population had not really heeded his call to boycott the election. He had later accepted to form an alliance, that many Oromo activists consider “contrary to nature”, with the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) consisting in their view of “chauvinists”.

More Ethiopian diplomats defect

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1208 17/02/2007
More Ethiopian diplomats have defected, bringing the total that has decided to leave the diplomatic service to seventy three. The latest to ditch the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and ask for political asylum in the United States is Ambassador Tayework Tilahun, who was his country’s consular attaché in Kuwait. Recently a staff member of the Ethiopian embassy in Ottawa (Canada), Dereje Ejigu, decided to do likewise. Several employees of embassies in London, Geneva, Stockholm and Paris, have defected the last few years.

The coffee lobbyists

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1208 17/02/2007
Two Washington firms are supporting the government of Addis Ababa in its fight against Starbucks to have Ethiopian coffee recognised internationally.

The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) can count on the support of the lobbyists of the American legal firm Arnold & Porter LLP to argue for the rights of Ethiopian coffee against Starbucks. One of this firm’s partners, Robert Winter, based in Washington, is acting for Ethiopian efforts to register Ethiopian coffee brands around the world. Another of the firm’s partners, Ramon P. Marks, a former marine and a member of Business Executives for National Security (BENS), went to Ethiopia in October 2006 as part of a visit organised by this American association.

The other mainstay of the Ethiopian campaign to have its coffee brands recognised is the Washington based NGO Light Years IP (LYIP). This was created in 1999 by the consultant Ron Layton and is working to help Ethiopian coffee producers increase their share of the world market. This activity has been funded for the last two years by the British Department For International Development (DFID).

Black Gold: Wake up and smell the coffee

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Millennium countdown

The countdown has started on a flickering billboard high above a roundabout in Ethiopia's capital, blinking out recently in red and gold letters: only 209 days, 15 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds to the Millennium.