Wikileaks and papers to censure Ethiopian cables- by Eskinder Nega

December 3rd, 2010 Print Print Email Email

“(Soon) Everywhere there is a US post (embassy or consulate), there is a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed,” wrote Bradely Manning,22, from a US army base outside of Baghdad , to his online friend,Adrian Lamo. “ Hillary Clinton and several thousands diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack.”( Lamo, a hacker, was horrified and informed the authorities.)

With access to the Defense Department’s Siprnet network “14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 8+ months”, over which State Department’s cables ranging up to “SECRET NONFORN” level (which means non-US citizens should not see them) are exchanged, Manning was perfectly positioned to deliver on his promise. ( “Information should be free. It belongs in the public domain,” he reasoned.)

In the end, he was to retrieve 251,287 dispatches from more than 250 US embassies and consulates, all compressed in just 1.6 gigabytes of text files. And 1398 of them are exchanges between the State Department and the US embassy in Addis Ababa. These interactions have,in the words of my well connected source (an American) “…word is US State Dept has been reviewing cables from Ethiopia on wikileaks and fears some of its sources may be placed in real jeopardy—think the newspapers and wikileaks have been trying to censor some of the stuff to avoid such an outcome.”

America’s most sensitive documents, however, including those that relate to Ethiopia, classified as “TOP SECRET” and above, are not part of the leaked documents. Manning did not hack the network over which they are exchanged.

The New York Times, one of four newspapers to which wikileaks has (unofficially) provided the entire documents, has obviously shared the Ethiopian cables with the Obama administration; which is recommending multitude of omissions to forestall possible compromises of its sources. The Times, as a matter of routine, shares the State Department’s concerns with the other papers.( Der Spiegel, Germany; Guardian ,UK; Le Monde ,France; and El Pais Spain.) Each paper decides independently whether to accept the State Department’s proposed excision in its entirety or just parts of it. But as Dean Baquet, the Times Washington bureau chief, says, “(those) requests are taken very seriously.” The NYT has agreed to some, but not all of the omissions suggested by the State Department so far, according to its editors. No major documents related to Africa have been released to date.

The leaked cables, which cover the period between 2005 and 2010, were sent, from, or to, the US embassy in Addis. Those sent from Addis were intended to be read by officials up to the level of Secretary of State; and should be, as is the case with the cables from other embassies to Washington, mostly drafted by the Ambassador or subordinates. How they perceived, negotiated, dealt, and maybe pressured Meles Zenawi will all soon be, as Manning intended, part of the public domain; no doubt embarrassing both sides.

But the unsettling prospect for the Americans, who reportedly rate their alliance with the EPRDF in Somalia as critical, is the extent to which the leaks may damage what is, by most insiders account, and already precarious relationship. Quick to be slighted, Meles abhors criticism. “He is oblivious to the distinction between a critique and a challenge to integrity,” says one of those he expelled (illegally) from the EPRDF leadership. And in a stroke of bad luck for the Americans, this leak has coincided with his peak petulance towards the West.( This is why Seyoum Mesfin, probably his best friend and most trusted confidant, is heading to Beijing instead of Washington as Ambassador.) Perhaps the only solace for the Americans is that the
most discomforting cables will most probably be from the Bush administration. Even then, some sort of fallout—or at least
unease— is almost inevitable.

An interesting read will be the cables of Vicki Huddleston and Donald Yamamato, who lean towards Democrats but had assumed high profile positions under a patently rightist Republican administration. And more intriguingly, light could also be shed on Yamamato’s subsequent demotion, where he still lingers. He now publicly decries the 2006 US backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia as a “mistake.” Pundits are eager to learn if and when he had expressed opposition to the invasion when the Bush administration was in office.

Ethiopian troops first crossed in to Somalia in September 2006. By November 2006, the UN was reporting of Ethiopia’s violations of 1992 arms-embargo on Somalia. US involvement, suspected by many, could be exposed by the leaks. Arms transfers are a Defense Department turf, however, and correspondences, if there were any, could very well have taken place over a different network.( The Defense Department has its own network.)US involvement in the violation of a UN arms-embargo, if confirmed by the leaks, could hardly come at a worst time. The US is chief sponsor and adamant would-be enforcer of all ten UN arms embargos—ranging from those against Hezbollah to Iran and North Korea— still in effect.

Of interest would also be —if it’s anywhere in the cables—the American estimate of Ethiopian causalities in Somalia. Meles insists that it was no more than 500, at least in 2006. Of course, no one, including his most avid supporters, believes him. Considered from the perspective of the ferocity of the war and fanaticism of Islamic militants, the figure has been disparaged as ridiculously low.

But as far as the international community is concerned, the potential for bombshell lies squarely in the story of, in the words of Human Rights Watch,” decentralized, outsourced Guantanamo”— the secret prisons in Ethiopia where suspects with strong links to al-Qaida were held by the Ethiopian government on behalf of the CIA and FBI.

According to a series of stories for McClatchy newspapers in 2007, two journalists reported that over 150 people had been deported from Kenya to Ethiopia and interrogated by CIA and FBI agents in three secret prisons. Incredibly, up to 200 agents of the CIA and FBI were reportedly involved. Though US government officials had at the time conceded to quizzing prisoners in Ethiopia, and rationalized it on national security grounds, the intricacies of the arrangement are still shrouded in secrecy. No one believes the EPRDF went overboard to assist the Americans for nothing. Almost anything related to this theme would generate a major international story.

For the Ethiopian public, however, the height of excitement will be measured in the cables that deal with the 2005 elections. Who did the Americans think won the elections? What did they think of the June and November massacres? Or the imprisonment of CUD’s leaders? And the closure of newspapers and imprisonment of their editors? Certainly, Washington must have sought guidance and update at some point. Maybe a little bit of intra-EPRDF politics? And hoping against hope, some fantasize about a cable that deals with high level corruption.(Very unlikely.)

Perhaps, in the end, there will not be much in the cables, after all. And all this excitement will all be for nothing. Well, possible, but unlikely. And while it lasts, the excitement is thrilling.

  1. Ethioy
    | #1

    Why all Ethiopians write very very very long article for such small subtance. Please learn how to be precise and attracive for readers. It is too long compared to it content

  2. ALEMU
    | #2

    nice notice!

  3. Santigo
  4. Dawit
    | #4

    I agree

  5. sebhat-Leab
    | #5

    Eskinder, where is the ” BEEF” in your article? Please, I beg you to be sensible!

  6. bebi
    | #6

    useless report, think for development of your country instead of writing such birds news.

  7. Habesha
    | #7

    Point taken

  8. ሞዓ አንበሳ
    | #8

    ጥሩ ነበር ባይንዛዛ.

  9. Drama
    | #9


  10. Terefe
    | #10

    Santigo :
    “Why all Ethiopians write very very very long article for such small subtance. Please learn how to be precise and attracive for readers. It is too long compared to it content” Thank you that’s what I thought. Could have been summarized in three paragraph. “Time is the essence”

    What’s wrong with you guys? “Time is the essence” is not three paragraph. It is only one sentence with four words in it.
    When you fail to find fault with the article you go on criticizing the length of the commentary. Yet, your knowledge of the language appears to be limited. Try

  11. Mocha
    | #11

    Why all? is Inductive argument!

  12. የሙ
    | #12

    ጥሩ ጽሁፍ ንዉ ግን በጣም ረዘመ
    ሌላ ደግሞ ከዊኪሊኪስ ብዙ ባትጠብቁ ይመረጣል, ምክንያቱም ቢውጣም ያዉ ወሬኛ ሰዉ ቡና መጠጫ አገኘ ማለት ንዉ, እንደኛ አገር ዉስጥ ገብቶ, ከወያኔ ጋር እየተጋፉ ወገን መርዳት ይሻላል

    ኢትዮጵያ ለዘልአለም ትኑር
    ወረኛ ግን የፈለግዉ ይተርትር

  13. የሙ
    | #13

    የሙ :
    ጥሩ ጽሁፍ ንዉ ግን በጣም ረዘመ
    ሌላ ደግሞ ከዊኪሊኪስ ብዙ ባትጠብቁ ይመረጣል, ምክንያቱም ቢውጣም ያዉ ወሬኛ ሰዉ ቡና መጠጫ አገኘ ማለት ንዉ, እንደኛ አገር ዉስጥ ገብቶ, ከወያኔ ጋር እየተጋፉ ወገን መርዳት ይሻላል
    ኢትዮጵያ ለዘልአለም ትኑር
    ወረኛ ግን የፈለግዉ ይተርትር


  14. የሙ
    | #14

    Hi Mr Moderator! what do you think about your forum? Men!…. as you are writing what you were feeling about my comment, you should appreciate others felling. You have no right to do this on my comment. otherwise you are antiwoyane as the same time you are doing what woyane doing here! OK! if you are Hero and Mr. Moderator come and work with Awramba Times and challenge EPRDF regime. OK!

    Long Live Ethiopia
    No matter Hatemongers diaspora says

  15. Ayeeeeeee!
    | #15

    #13 and likes of you Woyanes: LOL! You have no room to criticize Eskinder….With limited resources and restrictions, Eskinder has been doing an outstanding work. You Woyanes should know by now why 78 million Ethiopians are anti Woyanes; it has nothing to do that Melese is uglier than the monkey’s ass, or he is from Tigrea — it is because of all the unspeakable crimes the tyrant has committed, and still committing on Ethiopian citizens. Only Woyanes jump to chastise, disapprove, and judge outstanding Ethiopians like Eskinder and others like him. And on the other hand, you people support and admire the very man that has incarcerated, tortured, killed, looted, displaced Ethiopians dead or alive, and given the Ethiopians land to foreign countries. Woyanes’ excuses for all the horrendous crimes:–“FOR DEVELOPMENT”. Who is developing who for whose gain? People would rather live in a fox hole, be free, and have their children and extended family than live in fear waiting to be arrested, tortured and killed in a developed country. God is watching you! May the loving God teach you all a lesson or two.

  16. Shame on bandas
    | #16

    We know for sure the foreign agent TPLF got the direct order [ command ] from an arrogant and idiotic bush admn to invade somalia and caused for the death of over 3000 ethiopians in somalia’s soil. When America was not brave enough to try it self, USA sent a tinny command to weyanes to invade somalia wildly. The bush admn was not only totally corrupted, but also was full of idiotes like condlece rice and other africa’s american idiotes who were very corrupted.
    No trackbacks yet. እንግሊዘኛ አማርኛ

  17. idiot dictator
    | #17

    Who cares about information leak of some foreign mission? As long as it is a foreign war, we know it doesn’t favor us. We are just creating fututre enemies every time the idiot dictator makes a move for the USA. They don’t care what really happens around there. They will not spare a soldier’s life after they lost the war with somalia two decades ago.

  18. Dagnew
    | #18

    Ethioy,santigo,Dawit,sebe’at le’ab,Bebi and some others you guys smell sheabiya and weyane egent Eskindir Nega is true ethiopian he is not the man who deserved to insulted by some looser weyane egent.

  19. d.c. abesha
    | #19

    nice to see weyanes reading guys will end up learning something.

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