A leaked Cable of US Embassy Addis Ababa of August 2008, classified as ‘Secret’, speculates about ‘anecdotes’ of rift in the ruling party.

The Cable claims that:Arkebe Equbay

According to UK citizen Patrick Gilkes (strictly protect) who is now a strategic planning advisor to the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, in the summer 2008 TPLF party Congress, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi did not receive the most votes for party Chairmanship. Allegedly, former Mayor of Addis Ababa and currently the State Minister for Works and Urban Development Arkebe Equbay, long a TPLF Politbureau member, received more votes than both Meles and Seyoum Mesfin, the Foreign Minister and TPLF Vice Chairman. Gilkes argues that, recognizing the center of gravity surrounding Meles, Arkebe declined the party Chairmanship and Vice Chairmanship. Gilkes reported that the vote of dissent stemmed largely from lingering frustrations among the party over the still-unresolved territorial dispute with Eritrea over Badme (which the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission awarded to Eritrea in 2002, but Ethiopia continues to claim and occupy) as well as over the economic down turn which has taken a huge toll on the Tigray region.

[TPLF – the Tigray People Liberation Front, is one of the four parties that makeup the national ruling party EPRDF – Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Fronts.]

Though the story is not improbable, given the organizational culture of the party. Two things don’t seem to add up.

The size of TPLF’s  Central Committee, which elects the party chairperson and deputy, increased from 30 to 45 in 2006. Like any organization, the chairman is likely to make sure that the new comers are not opposed to him if not staunch supporters. Thus, it is unlikely Meles Zenawi could loose the majority vote in the subsequent party Congress  in 2008. Unless, one assumes, Meles Zenawi couldn’t influence promotions within the party or he acts selflessly – solely focusing on competence and without regard to personal support.

Secondly, it doesn’t seem logical that Arkebe fails to take at least the vice chairmanship of the party. He is a politician with a nice résumé and fair degree of popularity.

It is worth noting that Arkebe Equbay is currently Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, with a Ministerial portfolio. According to press reports, he is in charge of coordinating and supervising ministries and public enterprises with regard to infrastructure projects.

The Cable also claims disenchantments in the other EPRDF members parties and associate parties.

With regard to ANDM (Amhara National Democratic Movement), another member party of EPRDF,  the Cable claims, citing former EPRDF leader Seyee Abraha, that:

Deputy Prime Minister Adissu Legesse and Advisor to the Prime Minister Bereket Simon feature prominently in an emerging ‘status-quo’ faction, while Capacity Building Minister Tefera Walwa may be prominent among a dissenting faction. The ANDM ousted Tefera from his Vice Chairmanship — and according to some news reports from the Executive Committee — in September, replacing him with Meles-confidant Bereket Simon. Seeye suggested that the dissenters may be frustrated by the pre-eminence of the TPLF in the Ethiopian Government (GoE) and EPRDF without giving the ANDM a larger share of the pie.

It was reported in 2008 that Tefera Walwa resigned from the Vice Chairmanship and allegedly advice his colleagues to leave place for the young. However, many were skeptic given Ethiopians’ attachment to power and public offices. Speculations and rumors went spiral.

However, Tefera Walwa resigned from public offices in the 2010 ANDM Congress, citing his health condition. When the Congress, attended by hundreds of members, pressured him to take some ‘light responsibilities’, he shocked them by revealing the nature of his sickness. (cancer?)

Thus, while we can’t dismiss the possibility of power struggle with in the party, the faction theory that Seyee Abraha told the US Embassy is probably a speculation.

[Seyee Abraha served as Minister of Defense in the Transitional period, 1991-1995, then as Board Chairman of EFFORT(Endowment Fund for Rehabilitation of Tigray) until 2001. At the same time, he was member of the Excutive Committee of TPLF and EPRDF. His role in the government came to an end after the 2001 intra-party dispute. Then he went to prison on corruption charges for 7 years. After his release from prison, he joined the far right political camp.]

Concerning OPDO (Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization), the cable claims:

recent efforts to reconcile the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) with the GoE appear to have spurred concern among the OPDO regarding the EPRDF’s support for the party. The September return to Ethiopia of Ababiya Abajobir, and rumored plans for OLF former leaders Leencho Lata and Dima Negewo to return to Ethiopia in the spring of 2009, however, may cause further uncertainty within the OPDO in the months to come.

However, the US Embassy indicated in another Cable, citing elders, that OPDO leaders were supportive of the efforts to bring OLF back to the peaceful arena.

On SEPDM(Southern Ethiopia People Democratic Movement), the fourth member party of EPRDF, the Cable claims, citing Patrick Gilkes again, that two major ethnic groups, the Sidama and Wolayata, are frustrated. The Cable states:

In early 2006 as ethnic tensions in southern Oromiya and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) began to erupt, the Sidamo people — numbering roughly seven million — began expressing frustration within the SEPDM and EPRDF about not having adequate representation in government. Patrick Gilkes argues that to placate the Sidamo, the federal government orchestrated the removal — officially a resignation — of ethnic Welayta SEPDM Chairman Hailemariam Desalegn as SNNPR Regional President in March 2006, allowing ethnic Sidamo SEPDM Politbureau member Shiferaw Shikute (alternate spelling "Shigute") to take over the post. While the move did respond to some Sidamo complaints, the Sidamo reportedly still feel disenfranchised by the fact that the GoE has not yet established the Sidamo region as a formal administrative zone, which would provide greater self-rule and access to targeted federal resource transfers. At the same time, while Hailemariam’s move to an Advisor position, with the rank of Minister, within the Prime Minister’s Office in April 2006 and as EPRDF Chief Whip in Parliament in November 2008 (Ref. A), maintained him in prominent positions, many Welayta allegedly still feel aggrieved by the TPLF for his 2006 removal from the regional presidency.

The account is fairly accurate, though I am not sure if ‘frustration’ is the right word.  The Sidama demanded for their own region well before 2006. In fact, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi went to the region and hold talks with Sidama elders. And, while the Wolaita were not sure initially whether Hailemariam Desalegn’s appointment as an advisor to the PM was really a promotion, that has become obvious when he was appointed as Chief Whip. [Note: Hailemariam Desalegne became Dep. Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Oct. 2010].

Read the full text below.

(Please note that my introductory comments will be brief as I am sifting through thousands of recently released Cables.]

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Reference ID – 08ADDISABABA3400
Created – 2008-12-22 05:39
Released -  2011-08-30 01:44
Classification -  SECRET//NOFORN
Origin -  Embassy Addis Ababa

VZCZCXRO1953
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #3400/01 3570539
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 220539Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3153
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUZEFAA/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEPADJ/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 003400
NOFORN
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/05/2017
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL ET

SUBJECT: ANECDOTES ON RULING PARTY RIFTS
REF: A. ADDIS 3011
¶B. ADDIS 3188
¶C. ADDIS 1554

Classified By: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (S/NF) In a series of recent conversations with individuals close to the government and/or to individuals within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, we have heard reports of several looming rifts and internal tensions within each EPRDF sub-party. While we cannot confirm the truth behind these anecdotes as internal ruling party dynamics are among the most closely held Ethiopian secrets, each appears plausible and consistent with other personnel shifts in the recent past.

THE TIGRAYAN PEOPLE’S LIBERATION FRONT (TPLF)
———————————————

2. (S/NF) According to UK citizen Patrick Gilkes (strictly protect) who is now a strategic planning advisor to the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, in the summer 2008 TPLF party Congress, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi did not receive the most votes for party Chairmanship. Allegedly, former Mayor of Addis Ababa and currently the State Minister for Works and Urban Development Arkebe Equbay, long a TPLF Politbureau member, received more votes than both Meles and Seyoum Mesfin, the Foreign Minister and TPLF Vice Chairman. Gilkes argues that, recognizing the center of gravity surrounding Meles, Arkebe declined the party Chairmanship and Vice Chairmanship. Gilkes reported that the vote of dissent stemmed largely from lingering frustrations among the party over the still-unresolved territorial dispute with Eritrea over Badme (which the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission awarded to Eritrea in 2002, but Ethiopia continues to claim and occupy) as well as over the economic down turn which has taken a huge toll on the Tigray region.

THE AMHARA NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT (ANDM)
——————————————— –

3. (S/NF) Former TPLF Central Committee member and former Defense Minister Seeye Abraha told us on November 3 of an emerging rift in the senior leadership of the ANDM. Seeye, who despite being out of favor with the government retains a lot of long-held friends and contacts within the ruling coalition, suggested that Deputy Prime Minister Adissu Legesse and Advisor to the Prime Minister Bereket Simon feature prominently in an emerging ‘status-quo’ faction, while Capacity Building Minister Tefera Walwa may be prominent among a dissenting faction. The ANDM ousted Tefera from his Vice Chairmanship — and according to some news reports from the Executive Committee — in September, replacing him with Meles-confidant Bereket Simon. Seeye suggested that the dissenters may be frustrated by the pre-eminence of the TPLF in the Ethiopian Government (GoE) and EPRDF without giving the ANDM a larger share of the pie. He also argued that on-going tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan, which has cost the Amhara region a large chunk of territory, combined with the GoE’s response of sweeping the issue under the rug may be another aggravating factor driving the dissenters. Gilkes confirmed this information to Pol/Econ Chief on December 18.

THE SOUTHERN ETHIOPIAN PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT
——————————————— ——

4. (S/NF) In early 2006 as ethnic tensions in southern Oromiya and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) began to erupt, the Sidamo people — numbering roughly seven million — began expressing frustration within the SEPDM and EPRDF about not having adequate representation in government. Patrick Gilkes argues that to placate the Sidamo, the federal government orchestrated the removal — officially a resignation — of ethnic Welayta SEPDM Chairman Hailemariam Desalegn as SNNPR Regional President in March 2006, allowing ethnic Sidamo SEPDM Politbureau member Shiferaw Shikute (alternate spelling "Shigute") to take over the post. While the move did respond to some Sidamo complaints, the Sidamo reportedly still feel disenfranchised by the fact that the GoE has not yet established the Sidamo region as a formal administrative zone, which would provide greater self-rule and access to targeted federal resource transfers. At the same time, while Hailemariam’s move to an

ADDIS ABAB 00003400 002 OF 003

Advisor position, with the rank of Minister, within the Prime Minister’s Office in April 2006 and as EPRDF Chief Whip in Parliament in November 2008 (Ref. A), maintained him in prominent positions, many Welayta allegedly still feel aggrieved by the TPLF for his 2006 removal from the regional presidency. Both Seeye and Gilkes suggested that the SEPDM’s removal of ethnic Gurage Dr. Kassu Ilala, a former Deputy Prime Minister, Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, and former SEPDM Party Chairman, may have also displeased the small but influential Gurage community.

THE OROMO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT (OPDO)
———————————————

5. (S/NF) Some have argued that the OPDO’s backing of Prime Minister Meles in the 2001 TPLF split was critical to his survival and earned the OPDO Meles’ debt. As reported in Ref. B, however, recent efforts to reconcile the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) with the GoE appear to have spurred concern among the OPDO regarding the EPRDF’s support for the party. The September return to Ethiopia of Ababiya Abajobir, and rumored plans for OLF former leaders Leencho Lata and Dima Negewo to return to Ethiopia in the spring of 2009, however, may cause further uncertainty within the OPDO in the months to come.

EPRDF-AFFILIATED PARTIES: FROM BENISHANGUL…
———————————————

6. (S/NF) While the EPRDF is a coalition of the four, above-noted parties, several other parties have affiliated themselves with the EPRDF and vote as a block with the ruling coalition. While the EPRDF has not approved full member status to many of these parties, their loyalty to the ruling coalition has earned them a fair degree of autonomy to govern their more distant regions. In the far west, the Benishangul-Gumuz People’s Democratic Unity Front (BGPDUF) has enjoyed broad discretion in administering its region. The outbreak of brutal ethnic conflict, apparently orchestrated by some Benishangul-Gumuz (B-G) regional officials against the Oromos outside of Nekempt town in May (Ref. C), however, embarrassed the central government. The arrest of the regional vice president in response to the clash presented a tolerable response by federal authorities. Gilkes, however, argues that the GoE’s October 22 dispatch of National Security Advisor Abay Tsehaye, Hailemariam Desalegn, and then Federal Affairs Minister Siraj Fegessa to the B-G capital to force the resignation of regional President Yaregal Ayisheshum over the incident has sparked antagonism among the BGPDUF who resent the encroachment on their loyal autonomy.

…AND THE SOMALI PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY (SPDP)
——————————————— —–

7. (S/NF) An SPDP regional councilmember based in Dire Dawa recently described for us SPDP intraparty tensions related to the SPDP leadership’s adherence to EPRDF policies and practices. The councilmember said that "in general the (EPRDF established) Ethiopian Constitution is acceptable, but the reality on the ground is different. There is no intraparty democracy. The top leaders dictate, based on loyalty. If you criticize, you are branded as the opposition. Nor is there any intraparty dissent. SPDP leaders trample their own regulations and by-laws. If you point it out, they can sack you, prevent you from work, make you subservient." The SPDP regional councilmember said the SPDP leadership’s autocratic tendencies simply reflect the EPRDF’s authoritarian practices. "We are hoping for free and fair elections and a level playing field," he said, "but we are not there now. It would be better if Ethiopia followed global practices. The National Electoral Board is not free and fair. The recent census was sad and unreliable. I don’t even know how many people elected me." The SPDP regional councilmember added that "The police should be independent, but they are not. They serve the EPRDF, not the public. If the ruling party tells them to arrest someone, they do; if ruling party says release them, they release them. The judiciary is also not free and fair and just does the bidding of the ruling party. People are prosecuted for their way of thinking, not their actions. The police trump up charges, such as ‘colluding with anti-peace elements’ and they can even revoke the immunity of regional councilmembers. Roughly 17 members of the Somali Regional Council are in jail simply

ADDIS ABAB 00003400 003 OF 003

for expressing their views. I asked (SPDP leadership): ‘how is it possible the party can be judge, jury and executioner?’ and they replied ‘because we said so.’ So, many of our regional council member self-censor."

8. (S/NF) The SPDP regional councilmember cautioned that many in the SPDP are beginning to resent the EPRDF and their own leadership. "The Somali region was historically neglected," he said, "but in the past 17 years there have been few tangible changes and lately conditions are regressing. The government has taken no action to solve the problem of water shortages. We are all nationalist Ethiopians but within the SPDP rank and file the mind-set is changing. Instead of cooperating and helping Somali Region development, the EPRDF (and SPDP leadership) dictates, arrests and intimidates."

COMMENT
——-

9. (S/NF) Again, while we cannot independently confirm the anecdotes reported above, the corroboration of many by separate, unconnected sources and their correlation with other known developments renders them quite plausible. Independently, few if any of these dynamics is likely to pose an immediate impact on larger scale GoE or bilateral dynamics. At the same time, they do suggest an increasingly tenuous degree of tension at the center for the TPLF to hold things together. The competing priorities of clientelism and ethnic patronage risks the GoE (and specifically the TPLF) spreading itself too thin in responding to disparate demands without adequately being able to respond fully to any. Concessions within the ruling coalition also risks further squeezing the opposition to please allies, which may further contribute to the already palpable political tension in Ethiopia as we move toward the run-up to the 2010 national elections. As such, in the absence of outside encouragement for the GoE to ease the crack-down on political dissent, internal dynamics are likely only to lead the ruling party to pursue its increasingly fragile current approach to governance and control. Another concern is that Meles himself was almost overthrown by the TPLF Central Committee in 2001 and remains highly sensitive to criticism and changes in TPLF attitudes toward him. End Comment.

YAMAMOTO

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4 Replies to “Wikileaks: Inside EPRDF: Meles Zenawi had lost to Arkebe Equbay?”

  1. This Gilkes guy is a complete idiot. When EPRDF took over Gondar town in 1990 this same Patrick Gilkes was telling (VOA) from Addis that EPRDF was hanging Dergue officials in the town’s center and executing Keebler officials by firing squad.please look it up.He might fool the Ferenji by pretending to be ” an Ethiopia expert” since he has lived in the county for many years but he is a fool.Besides all his buddies are he Amhara intelligentsia also what do Ou expect.

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