Spate of defections continues

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1193 09/09/2006

The Ethiopian army, judiciary and diplomatic corps are still subject to numerous defections of employees and officials who go into exile to the United States.
After the defection at the beginning of August of the Oromo General Kemal Gelchu, more departures into exile have followed among Ethiopian diplomats and other top officials in the government of Addis Ababa. A Deputy Attorney General Alemayehu Zemedkun thus fled to the United States at the beginning of August where he asked for political asylum. Zemedkun, 41, left his wife and two children in Addis Ababa and fled to the USA after the Ethiopian authorities had asked him to take over the case of the charges against the leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP, opposition) imprisoned in Addis Ababa. He had attempted to convince his superiors, including the Minister of Justice Shemeles Kemale, that there was no case to answer, but to no avail. He then decided to go into exile. Since then, his testimony on Internet web sites and Ethiopian opposition blogs has shed a blunt light on the actions and attitudes of the Ethiopian executives, such as the minister of justice.
Some tens of defections have taken place lately in Ethiopian diplomatic circles. Meanwhile, suspicion has gone up a notch inside the ministry for foreign affairs about diplomats not felt to be sufficiently docile with the regime in place in Addis Ababa. Matters got even worse after revelations in the international media of confidential documents written by a foreign affairs ministry high official on its propaganda strategy. Some Ethiopian opponents have been able to draw up a list of 59 names of diplomats who have defected these last few months. They include two former Ambassadors (Yohanes Genda and Fleshes Adugna Wordofa) a few ministerial counsellor and a large number of junior diplomats. Among the latest defections to date are those of a diplomat in the Ethiopian embassy to India, of Biruk Hailu plenipotentiary minister to the embassy in Paris and Gizachew Bizuayehu, counsellor. The wife of the former Ambassador Kassahun Ayele is also believed to be filing her request for political asylum in the United States.
The majority of these diplomats complain about the management methods of their hierarchical superiors, of the generalised climate of suspicion that reins in the Ethiopian embassies and the obscure role of certain Tigrayan diplomats of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the EPRDF in power in Addis Ababa) operating as true political commissionaires. General Kemal Gelchu, who fled to Eritrea along with twenty other Ethiopian servicemen, is for his part expected to join the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, armed opposition). He accuses the actions of the Tigrayan hierarchy in the Ethiopian army and has revealed the growing level of discontent among non-Tigrayan soldiers.

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