U.S. Envoy Yamamoto Continues Personal Diplomacy in Ethiopia

29 May 2006
Ambassador's visit follows positive Tripartite meeting in Kigali, Rwanda
By Jim Fisher-ThompsonWashington File Staff Writer

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- During a May 27-29 visit, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto continued his quiet but effective brand of diplomacy by helping Ethiopians resolve domestic political differences following the nation’s orderly but disputed May 2005 elections.
Yamamoto also offered advice on the border conflict between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea.
The former ambassador to Djibouti is following the proactive diplomatic approach to Africa set by Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, who also have made several trips to troubled regions on the continent.
Yamamoto’s visit to Addis Ababa follows his attendance at a meeting on the Tripartite Plus peace process in Kigali where he helped facilitate an agreement between the four nations of Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda to better share information on rebels in the region and on a list of individuals and groups marked for sanctions. (See related article.)
The week before the diplomat arrived in Addis Ababa, one of Ethiopia’s leading opposition movements -- the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) -- made an announcement repudiating the extreme measures called for by some who oppose the ruling party, measures that might have included a series of deadly explosions that ripped through the capital recently.
In its May 25 statement, CUDP said it "condemns the criminals engaged in the recent explosions … [and] is deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property.
CUDP said it is committed to ending the mistaken belief that ‘Who ever ascends to power by force could only be toppled by force. CUDP firmly believes that the rivalry among citizens and killing of each other must stop."
The party, formerly known as CUD, said it "realizes that any activity which is contrary to a peaceful struggle would endanger the sovereignty of the country as well as security of citizens."
Yamamoto addressed the issue of political extremism in both Ethiopia and among the Ethiopian Diaspora in America when he told the House Africa Subcommittee in March, "Some interested groups, both within and beyond Ethiopian borders, seek to undermine what is best for the nation of Ethiopia, in favor of what they perceive to be the best for themselves. (See related article.)
"The challenge for the United States," Yamamoto told the lawmakers, is "to share with our Ethiopian partners -- the government, opposition, civil society and the broader public -- the lessons of America’s own democratic experiment and impede the subversive effects of those who put their own objectives above those of the Ethiopian people."
When such a group of Ethiopians in America called the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) recently formed claiming CUDP as a member, the party said, "We wish to make it clear a few individuals in the Diaspora masquerading as CUPD illegally may have been engaged in this [extremist] activity.
However, "The legally registered CUDP isn’t a member of the new alliance and doesn’t have any intention of joining this group in the future."
The push for political reconciliation rather than violent confrontation has been an ongoing theme of Yamamoto’s visits to Ethiopia.
In his recent testimony to Congress, the official said, "On numerous occasions the Assistant Secretary [Frazer] has sent me to Addis Ababa to work with the Ethiopian Government and opposition groups in support of U.S. Embassy efforts to encourage a reconciliation of differences between the opposition and the ruling parties and to discuss ways to improve the political process with the Ethiopian Government."
Instead of confrontation, Yamamoto said, the United States "encouraged the opposition parties to take their seats in the Ethiopian Parliament and use their positions as parliamentarians to press to continued political reform and a greater voice for the opposition."
According to their May 25 press release, CUDP agreed, declaring, "One can [only] resolve differences through dialogue and discussion." It stressed that it "strongly opposes a culture of armed struggle to change a government" and affirmed that "CUDP respects the constitution and laws of the country … [and] will only pursue its objectives peacefully in line with the constitution and the rule of law."
Vicki Huddleston, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, told the Washington File that relations between the Ethiopian government are "much improved" compared to the aftermath of the May 2005 elections and demonstrations that resulted in violence.
She said she was especially heartened recently when all the major opposition parties came out with a joint statement "endorsing a commitment to constitutional and democratic processes."
Referring to the CUDP’s press release, the former U.S. ambassador to Mali and Madagascar said she also was pleased that "the newly reformed CUD party made its debut marking out position seeking to build democracy and development by working through the legislative system and eschewing violence."
(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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