30 May 2006

Ethiopia: State's Yamamoto Concludes 'Very Positive' Talks

Addis Ababa — U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto ended a two-day visit to Ethiopia May 29 that included "very positive" talks with the Ethiopian government on settling the border dispute with Eritrea and on political and economic reforms.

"We've made a tremendous amount of progress," Yamamoto said following meetings with Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi Meles and other senior officials.

The U.S. official later left Ethiopia for Chad for meetings that will focus on efforts to establish "a political space for the opposition and to really help President [Idriss] Deby and the opposition parties cooperate more," Yamamoto told the Washington File.

Chad will the be the diplomat's final stop on a tour that included a May 26-28 visit to Kigali, Rwanda, to facilitate talks called the Tripartite peace process in which four Great Lakes nations reached agreement on sharing intelligence on rebel movements and on a list of warlords for sanctioning. (See related article.)

In Addis Ababa, the diplomat said, "We talked about bilateral relationships; the continuing issue of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border [dispute] -- on how to achieve permanent peace and secure safe and permanent demarcation of the border. The emphasis was peace."

Yamamoto, a former U.S. ambassador to Djibouti, said he did not meet with members of the political opposition on this trip. "But, we discussed that with the government and our position is that we are still continuing to work with the government on political and economic reform issues. Those are the two critical areas -- and the government was very receptive."


In the critical area of development and economic assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent more than $3 billion in Ethiopia since the 1960s, including $2.5 billion in food aid. In 2006, USAID is devoting more than $50 million toward development, including $5.5 million for democracy and good governance programs.

On another important front, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) devoted about $80 million for HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs in Ethiopia in 2005 and will continue to support the Ethiopian people in their battle against the disease. Announced in 2003, the five-year, $15 billion initiative to turn the tide in combating the global HIV/AIDS pandemic is providing funds to fight the disease, with a special focus on 15 hardest-hit countries. The United States is spending another $100 million through PEPFAR in 2006, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Janet Wilgus told the Washington File.

The AIDS prevalence rate in Ethiopia is around 5 percent, she added, but "they have a new demographic health survey coming out soon that might show it's a little bit lower than that."

According to Wilgus, "One of the important things PEPFAR is doing in Ethiopia is shoring up the whole infrastructure of the health system so that you can do prevention and treatment on the most effective basis. That means upgrading hospitals, health centers and training community health workers."

Asked if the Peace Corps might return to Ethiopia, Wilgus, a former volunteer herself, said, "We would love it." She said volunteers, who live and work at the village level in a number of African countries, would be especially effective in helping change attitudes as part of the U.S. government's emphasis on "transformational diplomacy."


On Ethiopia's role in the global war on terrorism, Wilgus said, "We have excellent cooperation and we work to maintain that; notwithstanding some of the other differences we may have" on political and economic matters.

The Ethiopian government, she said, has military officers coordinating with the U.S. regional task force stationed at Djibouti and with CENTCOM, the main U.S. military regional command headquartered in Florida that oversees U.S. counterterrorist operations in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in the Horn of Africa.

In April, Ethiopia was praised for its cooperative efforts on the War on Terror in the State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism. (See related article.)

In the past year, according to the report, "Ethiopia devoted high-level attention to the fight against terrorism and continued its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.

"As evidence of its political will to fight terrorism," the report continued, "the Government of Ethiopia agreed to a number of new initiatives and continued to cooperate in efforts to collect and share intelligence on terrorist groups. Draft counterterrorism legislation is currently before Parliament for approval."

Other points of cooperation, the terrorism report said, include accommodating requests for arrest warrants of suspected terrorists, passing laws to outlaw money laundering and several other financial crimes and active participation in African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development counterterrorism efforts.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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