[Updated on the 2nd paragraph with the source of the leaked audio.]
A leaked recording of Dr. Berhanu Nega confirmed the financial and operational ties between the Eritrean government, Ginbot 7 and ESAT.
The audio contains 6:12 minutes long speech by Berhanu Nega apparently a briefing to “Ginbot 7” officials about organizational matters. It was leaked to Awrambatimes.com, a US-based opposition media run by Dawit Kebede and former ally of Berhanu Nega.
Ginbot7 is a political group aiming a violent regime-change and has been designated as terrorist by Addis Ababa and the regional inter-governmental body IGAD.
Berhanu indicated the budget has been approved and described the approval process went “very smoothly and very positively”.
It was handled by “the second-ranking official”, since the “chief guy (Pres. Isaias Afeworki?) was not available”. The official said there is need not give thanks because “we are doing it for our own interests”, according to Berhanu.
It is not clear who the ultimate source of the money, though Egypt, Libya and Qatar has long been considered the primary patrons of the Asmara regime. However, the first two are believed to have aborted or downsized their role since 2011, while Qatar has recently improved ties with Ethiopia.
The audio record of Berhanu’s speech, however, reveals the allocation of the budget.
Berhanu Nega indicates, in the audio, that 200,000 dollars is earmarked for “ESAT activities”.
Though it is widely believed that ESAT (EthSat.com) is owned by Ginbot 7, it journalists and some western rights-groups maintain it is an independent media without directly addressing the claims made by former confidants and allies of Berhanu Nega.
The US State Dep. Human Rights report of 2011 had described EAST as: “Ethiopian Satellite Television, based in Amsterdam and supported by the Ginbot 7 group, which espouses violent overthrow of the government, reported periodic jamming of its service in Ethiopia, beginning in May, at the start of broadcasting”.
There are claims that the alleged jamming caused dispute between the Egypt-based Nile-Sat and the Ethiopian government. There have been reports that Nile-Sat denied service to Addis Ababa, though there is no report of Egyptian officials’ involvement in the matter.
ESAT’s programs openly promote right-wing insurgent groups, especially Ginbot 7, and shy away from news unfavorable to Asmara, such as the mutiny against Isaias Afeworki last January.
Berhanu’s speech, in the leaked audio, indicated progress with regard to a certain previous plan made with the Ministry of Information of Eritrea. Their agreement “to build” a “powerful transformer with all its accessories” has been delayed because the equipment “very expensive”, Berhanu Nega explained.
However, now, Berhanu said, the equipment are acquired without disclosing how and indicated that will be “completely directed towards Ethiopia”.
While “the transformer” appears to be for broadcasting purposes, it is not clear whether it is intended for ESAT transmissions or not.
“Military and Intelligence works”
Berhanu Nega claimed 200,000 US dollars will be spent on “military and intelligence works”, which appears to a euphemism for terror acts as well as its newly formed “Ginbot 7 popular force” stationed in Eritrea.
Berhanu Nega also disclosed that a group terrorists are on the move.
He claimed “six men” has arrived from South Africa, while “three men” from Kenya and South Sudan are expected soon. Once the later three arrive, they will include “men from inside there” and “will form a ‘ganta’ (a military unit)”, then “we will proceed to the next step”.
The destination is not disclosed in the speech, though it appears to be Eritrea or Ethiopia.
Berhanu’s speech indicates that Ginbot 7′s effort to establish military presence in Eritrea has faced resistance from other insurgent groups. He said that “as expected EPPF and the so-called Amhara’s organization have been unwilling to recognize Ginbot 7′s popular force as expected”.
However, “the Eritrean official who handles the matter” decided in favor of Ginbot 7, since the latter “is not part of the agreement….those who want can join it”. It seems there is a sort of cartel set by the existing insurgencies with regard to members recruitment.
“Peaceful struggle” and “Diplomacy works”
The rest 100,000 US dollars will be used to finance “peaceful struggle being conducted” in Ethiopia and for diplomacy works, according to Berhanu’s speech on the leaked audio.
It is not clear how Berhanu is conducting the “peaceful struggle” and whether he finances legal political parties and press outlets operating in Addis Ababa.
Berhanu reveals that they have agreed with the Eritrean officials “to coordinate” in the “diplomacy works” and has already started “concerted effort” in US and Europe.
He appeared less hopeful about US State Department saying “there is not much we can do there…but we can work on the Congress and through lobby groups”.
He disclosed the strategy with regard to the Congress and US think-thanks will be creating “serious doubt and question” about the Ethiopian government. This will succeed if “we work effectively” and “comparing notes”, Berhanu added.
To download and listen the audio (Amharic) – click here (2.8mb – MP3 format)