Ethiopia: Seven Days Update (Addis Ababa)

7 July 1998

Ethiopia: Seven Days in Politics

Addis Ababa — ONLF+ESDL=SPDP: Radio Ethiopia (June 27) reported that the Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP) called on Ethiopian Somalis to consolidate "democratic nationalism".

In a statement it issued at the end of the founding conference of SPDP, the party urged Ethiopian Somalis to fight narrow nationalism, corruption, nepotism and fundamentalist tendencies. It alleged that Al- Itihad as well as ONLF, which it said try to destabilize the state, were mercenary groups. The party also urged the people to be vigilant against anti-peace elements.

Two days later, state media disclosed that Somali nationals and members of the newly-founded Somali Peoples' Democratic Party (SPDP) have expressed their satisfaction over the establishment of the new party with the merger of ESDL and ONLF. They made their observations in interviews they gave to the media. They said the establishment of the new party will speed up the region's economic development.

The non-ambassador in London

The private paper Tobia (July 2) informed its readers that Ethiopia's ambassador to the UK for the past six years, Dr. Solomon Gidada, is said to have left the embassy and the ambassador's official residence, and to have effectively given up his post on his own accord since the beginning of last month. No reasons were given for his decision. However, according to sources close to the matter, the ambassador was about to give a statement to journalists at a restaurant without notifying the foreign minister. But, after being told that this was outside of diplomatic norms, he did not give the planned statement. Diplomatic sources reveal that Dr. Solomon's relationship with Ethiopian residents in London was not that good. Dr. Solomon, the brother of President Negasso Gidada, used to be the chairman of the Joint Relief Partnership (JRP), a grouping of church relief organizations. Another private paper Addis Tribune (July 3) stated, however, that some sources indicated that the ambassador is on an extended sick leave.

No host at birthday party

The All Amhara People's Organization (AAPO)'s paper Andinet (June 27) wrote that at a special ceremony on June 20 at the office of the All Amhara People's Organization (AAPO), the 70th birthday anniversary of the ailing AAPO president, Professor Asrat Woldeyes, is said to have been observed in the presence of members of his family, friends and AAPO members and supporters. This is said to be the fourth time Professor Asrat's birthday was observed at AAPO's office as he spent the last four years in prison. This year's event was reportedly marked by concern over Professor Asrat's deteriorating health.

Yesterday's people

The private weekly Examiner (July 1) disclosed that a number of former senior officials of the Derg regime involved in the May 1991 aborted negotiations between EPRDF and the Derg are said to be serving at the International Strategic Studies Institute in the U.S. Others, including Ato Tesfaye Dinka (former prime minister) and Ato Bililign Mandefro (former attorney general), are said to be working at the Carter Center. Dr. Ashagre Yigletu (now Dr. Bessufekad Yigletu) and Ato Kassa Kebede are said to be involved in studies on Africa and Ethiopia in cooperation with CIA experts and U.S. officials managing "The Horn" project.

Far away friends

The private weekly Tobia (July 2) wrote that a group calling itself "Friends of the Ethiopian Free Press Society" is said to have been set up in Washington, D.C. The society sets to provide legal defence to

journalists and support families of jailed journalists, uphold freedom of expression and publicize the problems of Ethiopian journalists, etc. It also called for the unconditional release of all jailed journalists, for all charges against them to be dropped, and for the revocation of the Press Law.

Clear and present danger

VOA (July 1) reported that the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) has disclosed that six members of its staff disappeared in Eastern Ethiopia while they were traveling between Degehabour and Gode. AFP reported that the ICRC was talking to Somali chieftains to locate the whereabouts of its staff members, five Ethiopians and one foreigner.

The private paper Addis Tribune (July 3) added that press reports say it is widely believed that a separatist faction within the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the ONLF, was responsible.

VOA (July 3) had a different story. It disclosed that Al-Itihad Al- Islam has claimed responsibility for kidnapping six ICRC staff members in Eastern Ethiopia. A spokesman of Al-Itihad said the ICRC workers, one Swiss and five Ethiopian citizens, were kidnapped in the Ogaden where Al-Itihad is operating.

No guest football

VOA (June 29) reported that the 15th annual sports festival of Ethiopians residing in North America opened on June 28 in Atlanta, Georgia. The mayor of Atlanta and other invited guests attended the opening ceremony. Some 23 teams will take part in a football tournament. The organizing committee expressed disappointment as this year's guest of honor, Ato Fekade Muleta, who was a footballer for EELPA and the national team, could not attend the occasion because the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa refused to give him an entry visa. At week's end, however, it was reported that Ato Fekade had made it to the closing ceremony. The organizers decided to admit Eritreans in the festival provided they recognize their Ethiopian identity.

Rights and wrongs

- A person who was in custody in a Dangla prison during the Derg testified that he saw 17 other inmates being shot dead and buried in a grave which they themselves dug. Ato Ayne Wole told the Federal Court First Criminal Bench that the victims were called out from the prison one by one and shot dead (Radio Ethiopia, July 30).

- A three-day workshop focusing on justice and organized for 50 professionals drawn from judiciary bodies in Afar regional state opened in Assaita on July 1. Organized by the state's justice and prosecution bureau, the workshop is aimed at tackling miscarriage of justice committed due to lack of experience and control mechanism (Monitor, July 2).

Waag Communications Enterprize Pvt. Ltd provides this news summary for information purposes only and does not assume responsibility for the accuracy or the content of the news reports contained herein.

Publisher &Editor: Tafari Wossen, Editor: Solomon Demrew

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