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Viewing cable 09ADDISABABA1347, RECALIBRATING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ETHIOPIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ADDISABABA1347 2009-06-10 11:06 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Addis Ababa
VZCZCXRO5183
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1347/01 1611106
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 101106Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5061
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 02 ADDIS ABABA 001347 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/10/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV ASEC ECON ET
SUBJECT: RECALIBRATING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ETHIOPIA 
 
REF: A. 2008 ADDIS 1674 
     B. ADDIS 975 
     C. ADDIS 379 
     D. 2008 ADDIS 2325 
     E. ADDIS 1200 
     F. 2008 ADDIS 2262 
     G. ADDIS 594 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D). 
 
BACKGROUND TO A CRISIS 
---------------------- 
 
1. (S/NF) The Ethiopian Government's (GoE) growing 
authoritarianism (Ref. A), intolerance of dissent, and 
ideological dominance over the economy since 2005 pose a 
serious threat to domestic stability and U.S. interests.  The 
GoE has come to believe its own anxieties about a fundamental 
shift in U.S. policy against it.  This self-induced crisis of 
confidence has exacerbated the GoE's natural tendency of 
government control over politics, the economy and personal 
freedoms.  To pre-empt retaliation, the GoE has increasingly 
purged ethnic Oromos, Amharas, and others perceived as not 
supporting the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary 
Democratic Front (EPRDF) from the military (Ref. B), civil 
service (Ref. C), and security services.  Such moves only add 
to the already growing deep public frustration and have led 
to a vicious cycle.  The public is increasingly upset over 
double digit inflation (Ref. D), anxiety over their economic 
future (Ref. E), the GoE's denial of the drought (Ref. F), 
growing public inability to feed their families, and 
narrowing of political space highlighted by the prominent 
arrest of opposition leader, Birtukan Midekssa (Ref. G). 
 
2. (S/NF) Without significant policy reform to liberalize the 
economy and allow mounting political dissent to be vented, 
the national elections in 2010, another season of failed 
rains, increasing inflation, or a terrorist attack could 
spark major civil unrest.  The United States can induce such 
a change, but we must act decisively, laying out explicitly 
our concerns and urging swift action.  Because the GoE has 
enjoyed only growing international assistance and recognition 
despite its recent record, it currently has no incentive to 
veer from the current trajectory to which the EPRDF is so 
committed.  If we are to move the GoE, we must be willing to 
use USG resources ) diplomatic, development, and public 
recognition ) to shift the EPRDF's incentives away from the 
status quo trajectory. 
 
PROPOSED REMEDIES AND APPROACHES 
-------------------------------- 
 
3. (S/NF) For USG leadership in moving the GoE to be 
successful, we need firm backing from the interagency and the 
willingness of senior officials to engage.  We need to 
reassure the Ethiopians that we value, and look forward to 
continuing and expanding, our partnership in pursuit of our 
mutual national interests.  We need to reaffirm our 
recognition of their contributions to our shared cooperation 
on special projects and information sharing.  If we are to 
move them, though, we need to deliver an explicit and direct 
(yet private) message that does not glad-hand them.  We must 
convey forcefully that we are not convinced by their 
rhetoric, but rather that we see their actions for what they 
are, and that we see their actions as potentially 
destabilizing and undercutting Ethiopia's own interests.  We 
should then explicitly allay their anxiety by affirming that 
we value what they have done in terms of economic growth and 
institution building since 1991 in turning Ethiopia around, 
that we are not trying to promote regime change, and that we 
are delivering a similarly explicit message of the need for 
change to opposition groups. 
 
4. (S/NF) After delivering such a message, I recommend that 
we invite the GoE and EPRDF leadership to Washington for 
senior level bilateral meetings to convey a unified USG 
message, and repeat this process annually.  To support this 
effort, we must review our assistance program and security 
relations to fit our interests in the country.  We should be 
prepared to expand, contract, or even suspend activities 
across USG agencies to induce and/or support GoE reforms 
without reserving any "sacred cows."  As the GoE is well 
versed in playing one USG agency off another, interagency 
buy-in and coordination of message is vital to our success. 
 
ADDIS ABAB 00001347  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
FINAL NOTE 
---------- 
 
5. (S/NF) Prime Minister Meles is universally considered a 
brilliant thinker.  Meles truly believes in reform and 
democratic values, but, like others in the EPRDF, he has a 
specific perspective on what each looks like and is confident 
that the party's approach is the exclusive path to a 
prosperous future for Ethiopia.  Bold U.S. leadership is 
necessary now if we are to push Ethiopia onto a more positive 
trajectory. 
YAMAMOTO