October 06, 2007

Enduring Disagreement in TPLF (ION Newsletter)

The Tigrayan Officers Clear the Tables

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1223 06/10/2007
The recent promotion of a number of officers to top ranks went largely to Tigrayans.

Four of the six generals promoted to the rank of major general and ten of the seventeen colonels promoted to brigadier general at the end of September are Tigrayans, members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the governing coalition). Their promotion strengthens still further the control Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the TPLF have on the armed forces. All the more so since on the same occasion, 400 officers in the Northern Command, overwhelmingly Tigrayans, were also promoted during a ceremony at Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray Regional State. The Ethiopian Army Chief of Staff, Samora Yunis, also a Tigrayan, was promoted to the rank of general even though he has not even had a modern military training.

One notable exception is Abebaw Tadesse Asres, an Amhara, who was raised to the rank of lieutenant general, no doubt to please the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM, a component in the ruling coalition). Meanwhile, just two Oromo officers, General Birhanu Julla Gellelcha and Colonel Getachew Shiferaw Feyissa and one officer from the south of the country, Colonel Negussie Lemma Dibaro, benefitted from this wave of promotions.

These measures will aggravate tension between Tigrayan non-commissioned officers and their Oromo and Amhara colleagues. Such tension already put in an appearance in an officers’ meeting of the 4th infantry division last week. Particularly as the Ethiopian army is still bogged down in Somalia where operations are led by the Tigrayan General Seyoum Hagos (one of those just promoted) and a resumption of fighting in Eritrea is still a possibility.

Enduring Disagreement in TPLF

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1223 06/10/2007
The Ethiopian opposition is not alone in being riddled with rivalry. Rumours of conflict within the government coalition are beginning to leak out from the screened walls of the Ethiopian Prime Ministerial residence. According to information obtained in Addis Ababa by The Indian Ocean Newsletter, this disagreement pits on one side Meles Zenawi, supported by his Minister for Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin, against on the other side the regime’s grey eminence, Sebhat Nega, backed notably by Bereket Simeon and Tefera Walma. Their rivalry was revived in the run-up to the adoption on 2 October of the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 in the United States. But it has its roots in the rejection by Sebhat Nega and his partisans of the Prime Minister’s “soft” policy on the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition). Meles Zenawi is having a hard time selling his colleagues his policy of appeasing the reformist wing of the opposition, even though this policy has the support of Washington. Indeed, this should lead to opening negotiations with the most moderate faction of recently freed CUDP former political prisoners. The latter would return to the political scene and possibly to Parliament (in the case of those elected in 2005) and even to the post of mayor of Addis Ababa in the case of Berhanu Nega. Various groups are active in the wings in the United States to pave the way for possible negotiations between the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the moderates in the opposition. The Carter Center founded by former US President Jimmy Carter could act as mediator for these discussions. However Sebhat Nega and Bereket Simeon are staunchly opposed to this idea of negotiating with the opposition.

OPDO’s Mohammed Ali for President?

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1223 06/10/2007

An ambassador currently on vacation in the United States is tipped to become the next President of Ethiopia. However, Mohamed Ali has ties with the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation (OPDO), a member of the governing coalition. His nomination to replace the current President Girma Woldegiorgis could therefore contravene the legislation passed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, the governing coalition) after the presidency of Negasso Gidada. This measure stipulates that no member of a political organisation can be appointed to the post of President of Ethiopia.

African Intelligence

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