US embassy cables Meles Security chief and Yamamoto

December 8th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Monday, 08 June 2009, 12:33


EO 12958 DECL: 06/07/2019
Classified By: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

The US ambassador to Addis Ababa discusses bilateral relations, democratic opposition, and political repression and human rights with one of the country’s most powerful, and most reclusive leaders. The two men also discuss regional issues, including Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea – Ethiopia’s old enemy. Key passage highlighted in yellow.

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1. (S) In a rare meeting with the elusive head of the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and main hardliner within the powerful executive committee of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party, Ambassador and NISS chief Getachew Assefa discussed a wide range of regional and bilateral issues. Getachew made clear during the four hour private meeting that Ethiopia sought greater understanding from the U.S. on national security issues vital to Ethiopia, especially Ethiopia’s concerns over domestic insurgent groups like the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). He spoke at length about former Addis Ababa Mayor-elect Berhanu Nega XXXXXXXXXXXX; VOA’s biased reporting; the dangers of former defense minister Seeye Abraha’s growing authority within the opposition; Ethiopia’s views on democracy and human rights; Eritrea’s role as a rogue state in the region; and regional issues including the importance of supporting the Transitional Federal Government and a rapprochement with Alhu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) as the only option for Somalia’s survival; and the need for U.S. reconciliation with Sudan. End Summary.



2. (S) Through the arrangements of former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Irv Hicks, Ambassador met with Ethiopia’s national intelligence chief, Getachew Assefa, for a four hour private meeting on June 4. Getachew, noted for his eccentric behavior and elusiveness, explained to the Ambassador that he welcomes greater dialogue with the U.S. Embassy, but underscored the importance of deeper U.S. understanding of Ethiopia’s security concerns. Characterizing the U.S. relationship as sound and expressing appreciation for the cooperation with the U.S. on special projects on counterterrorism, Getachew emphasized that Ethiopia shares U.S. views on high value targets (HVT) like Robow and al-Turki as threats to regional stability. But domestic insurgent groups, like the OLF and ONLF, should also be treated as terrorists because they have safe haven camps in extremist-held areas in Somalia and receive support and assistance from the very same HVTs that the U.S. and Ethiopia are trying to neutralize. Such support makes the ONLF and OLF accomplices with international terrorist groups, Getachew argued. Just as Ethiopia would not meet with domestic U.S. insurgent groups, referring to individuals and groups who would conduct bombings of U.S. government offices, abortion clinics and advocates of racial and gender hate, Ethiopia would not want U.S. officials to meet with Ethiopia’s domestic insurgents who bomb and kill Ethiopian officials and citizens.

3. (S) Getachew added that the GOE does conduct talks with the ONLF and OLF and there are groups, like the Ethiopian elders, who reach out to the membership in an effort to end the violence. Getachew stressed that this is an Ethiopian process by Ethiopians and should remain an Ethiopian-led, Ethiopian-directed and Ethiopian-coordinated process. Ambassador made clear that the U.S. Administration does not meet with the ONLF and that the U.S. is in close consultations with Ethiopian authorities on their views on the ONLF and OLF, and that the U.S. supports the work of the Ethiopian Elders to end the violence. Getachew noted the visit to European Capitals and Washington of ONLF senior leaders and said they met with staffers in the U.S. Vice President’s office. The Ambassador said that we had no evidence that a meeting took place with the Vice President’s staff and stressed that the State Department did not meet with the ONLF group. Further, the U.S. military no longer meets with alleged ONLF supporters in the volatile Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia because of security concerns. The Ambassador stressed that such meetings in the past was for force protection of U.S. military civil affairs team working in the dangerous Ogaden region near Somalia, but in the last few years there has been no contact. The Ambassador added that there should be closer discussion between he U.S. and Ethiopia on this issue.



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4. (S) Getachew complained pointedly that Voice of America (VOA) is biased and gives a platform for extremist elements. XXXXXXXXXXXX

5. (S) Getachew also discussed the VOA reports covering former State Department official Greg Stanton of Genocide Watch, who charged Prime Minister Meles of crimes against humanity as a result of Ethiopia’s incursion into Somalia in 2006. Getachew complained that VOA Amharic reporting was biased and not even handed. He did note that VOA English was fine. VOA Amharic service does not interview Ethiopian officials who can refute “false assertions” espoused in the VOA interviews. Getachew praised Germany’s Deutsche Wella service for its balanced and yet hard hitting reporting. Getachew underscored that if the GOE is doing something wrong or does not have the support of the people, news services have an obligation to highlight such problems. Getachew said VOA, however, seeks to report only what is anti-government or lend support for the opposition. Getachew concluded that the U.S.G., because of VOA Amharic service is an official arm of the U.S.G., lacks neutrality in its support for the opposition and this undercuts relations between the two countries. The Ambassador replied that VOA is a very independent media and the U.S.G. does not have oversight and control over the content of the reporting.




7. (S) Getachew commented on Ethiopia’s opposition leadership underscoring that he wishes to see a vibrant opposition movement, but currently, the NGO community and foreign missions support the opposition blindly without critical analysis. XXXXXXXXXXXX

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9. (S) Getachew echoed common themes advocated by the ruling EPRDF party stalwarts from the Prime Minister to the party faithful. He stressed that the EPRDF supports democracy and that it is the goal for the ruling party to eventually give way to other parties of common vision in fighting poverty and a commitment to support the process of democratization. Getachew said he would support opposition parties if they have a better message to help Ethiopia overcome poverty, improve health care and education, and raise the standard of living of the Ethiopian people. He added that the U.S. and others should look at Ethiopia’s democracy efforts and human rights record as a work in progress. It will take time but Ethiopia is moving in the right direction that will make Ethiopia a democratic state.



10. (S) Getachew described Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki as “no martyr,” who sought to survive and establish himself as the predominate leader in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia stands in the way of Isaias’ grand design and it is his goal to divide Ethiopia and weaken it through terrorism. Getachew remarked that one of Isaias’ bodyguards was in Dubai and then defected to Ethiopia. The bodyguard remarked that Isaias was a recluse who spent his days painting and tinkering with gadgets and carpentry work. Isaias appeared to make decisions in isolation with no discussion with his advisors. It was difficult to tell how Isaias would react each day and his moods changed constantly. Getachew added that Eritrea trains over 30 rebel groups at Camp Sawa near the Sudan border and graduates are infiltrated into Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia to enhance instability and target Ethiopian interests. Getachew expressed dismay with Kenya in allowing Eritrean intel officers and military trainers who support al-Shabaab in Somalia, to bribe their way out of Kenya and return to Eritrea. He explained the activities of Abraha Kassa, Eritrea’s elusive intel chief who directs Eritrea’s Somalia operations.

11. (S) On Somalia, Getachew said the only way to support stability was through support for the ASWJ which attracts a wide range of support from all the clans, especially those groups in conflict with each other. The ASWJ has been effective in countering al-Shabaab and is ideologically committed to Sufism and the defense of Islam against the extremist salafists which form al-Shabaab. Getachew said the U.S. can best help by supporting the ASWJ and TFG to cooperate, to pay salaries of TFG troops and support the IGAD and African Union which are seeking to sanction Eritrea, implement a no fly zone, and close ports used by extremist elements.

12. (S) On Sudan, Getachew urged the U.S. to engage Bashir and the Sudanese leadership. Sudan, more than Somalia, poses the greatest threat to regional security and stability, Getachew argued. The prospects for a civil war which destabilizes the region would be devastating. The only country that would benefit would be Eritrea.



13. (S) It is interesting that Getachew’s description of President Isaias mirrors Getachew’s own character, as well.

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Getachew avoids speaking with foreigners and few foreigners really know him. He is not well liked within his own agency for decisions he makes in isolation which, at times, make little sense and are not discussed in consensus with his staff. His apparent hot temper and reclusive habits have made it difficult for his staff to gauge his moods and understand his thought process. The Prime Minister himself and other EPRDF leaders have remarked to the Ambassador that it is difficult to talk with Getachew and to meet with him, but that his loyalty to the EPRDF is never in question. Despite his poor reputation, Getachew is regarded as a strong EPRDF hardliner and commands considerable authority and influence within the powerful EPRDF executive committee which lays down the policy for the ruling party and the government. While relations with NISS officials below Getachew’s rank are extremely cordial and, depending on the unit, very close, the Ambassador has met with Getachew only twice in the past three years, and other Embassy staff have also met with little success in engaging him. Even visiting senior U.S. intel officers have not been successful in meeting Getachew. Ambassador will pursue future meetings with Getachew but he will never be a close contact. End Comment. YAMAMOTO

  1. Ahehe
    | #1

    The comments by Getachew Assefa to the US Abmassador are illuminating on how an institution that is supposedly a neutral and non-partisan body that protects national security is controlled by a “hardliner” EPRDF die hard who puts TPLF interests above all the interests of the Ethiopian people. Moreover, the fact that Intelligence Chief’s his description of Isayas also befits his character – which means he is not the man of the people but a recluse and insulated person who is not even a “normal” individual who is disconnected from reality, everyday life and the emotional stability required by public office.

    The other major insight from the WikiLeaks information is what Getachew said about EPRDF’s plan that “it is the goal for the ruling party to eventually give way to other parties”. this shows that elections and the talk of democracy are shows and circus. The reality is what this hardliner recluse is saying about – that EPRDF would not submit to popular ballot choices but it would share power only when it sees fit- which seems endless considering the corruption and the money that these EPRDFits are getting addicted to.

    And how come a supposedly chief of a neutral and professional institution uses his official duty for party politics – how could an intelligence chief talk about the opposition party? Why is a chief who has the duty to protect all legal political parties in equality talk about Siye Abraha’s popularity? Is he a chief of intelligence or is he a TPLF/EPRDF fighter wearing the official duty of the federal official. If the intelligence chief, the judges, courts, the military and the police, and the media are not independent and go after a portion of the society, there is no rule of law and there is a breach of official duty and responsibility. This is a major exposition of how prejudiced, partisan, unprofessional and narrow-minded the supposedly neutral intelligence office is.

    The US ambassador is on point to have characterized Getachew as the other Isayas> Moreover, the ambassador makes another mockery of Meles Zenawi and his parrots as making a “common theme” in their songs of supporting democracy. this was a slight in paper but what the US believes to be nonexistent in reality – just a song by Meles and Co.

    WikiLeaks is exposing the EPRDF in one day what we have lacked in the last 20 years. This is a major inroad into the workings of the EPRDF and be a major evidence on what the public has been dying to know over the years. “Information is power.” This info is what you would have known only if you were a TPLF member. Keeping how the intelligence works against non-TPLFs is the reason why 99% of employees are Tigrians. Thanks WikiLeaks!

  2. Daniel
    | #2

    Wow, every time something is disclosed about the current government, somebody tries to find what ever negative is there. Ahehe #1 seems to gloat by the fact the guy was being compared to Issiyas of Eritrea. How can you compare a supposedly head of state with someone his job is to be illusive and secretive to begin with? A head of state should be accessible and accountable to the general public, where as an intelligence chief should remain hidden in the bunkers. If you ask me, this guy seems to understand his job description very well. The fact that even the Prime Minster can’t get hold of this guy shows me how independent he is. His party affiliation is almost irrelevant as long as he does his job the right way. Please don’t tell me that intelligence officers in the wider western world are a collection of bunch of saints. They mostly belong to the party whose in power. Of course, their allegiance should and is to the constitution – but don’t waste your time to connivence me his being an EPRDF member is detrimental to his job as intelligence officer. As to his comments of the opposition, I found his summation when he said : “he would support opposition parties if they have a better message to help Ethiopia overcome poverty, improve health care and education, and raise the standard of living of the Ethiopian people” And he also added: “he wishes to see a vibrant opposition movement”. That, my friend, is the name of the game. You with your hate filled mind just came up with all the negatives and try to make a mockery out what should be a strong persons independent analysis of a current affairs. He did not hide the fact things are still work in progress – which you will certainly never hear from a “hard-liner”. What frustrates me more is your assertion of 99% of the employees are from Tigray – hog wash! Instead of making up things, why don’t you learn to be constructive and discuss the facts? By assuming this guy is from Tigray – you are exposing yourself as a racist. I don’t know if he’s from there or not – but if he was then what? Judge him by the content of his character – last I checked Tigreans are also proud Ethiopians.

  3. Balcha
    | #3

    you are very naive, in the land of ethiopia, where Getachew’s predecessor was the killer of Bealu Girma, u want the security to be ‘neutral”
    Well whether u like woyane or not, one should admire their independence, like many Ethiopian heroes in the past. getachew like Meles does not really care about the Americans, they talk like co-equals, that is not easy if u are representing a poor country and talking to someone representing USA. getachew even does not want to talk to USA Embassy officals, how many gov officials from poor countries avoid the Americans? Five! for independence. Abugida are u gonna delete my comment, do I have always to say bad words about woyane in order to participate in ur forum?

  4. Drama
    | #4


  5. Bloody hand Woyanes!
    | #5

    Warning! Warning! Abugida, your website is swarmed by Woyanes.
    –Wikileak confirmed that TPLF leaders are all mentally unstable. The fact is there is no Democracy in Ethiopia and US knows it. The question is, why in the world US keep supporting and handing billions of US Tax Payers money to a well known dictator that has the blood of countless number of Ethiopians?

  6. Where is our hero?
    | #6

    I am dying to find out to what ever happened to one of our hero, Col. Tadesse Muluneh. For some unknown reason Ethiopian Review has closed comments on this important issue. I wonder why?
    Does the other devil IsayAss have something to do with Col. Tadesse Muluneh’s disappearance? Or, Did TPLF thugs got a hold of this decorated Ethiopian soldier? WTF is going on? May be Wickileaks have some information on our hero. I am deeply worried about his safety. My prayers go out to Col. Tadesse Muluneh’s family.

  7. aha!
    | #7

    This narratives derived from WikiLeaks website the fixation on both sides on terrorism and counter terrerism, not the issue of putting a pressure on the TPLF/eprdf regime by US Government to allow for political space requested in one voice by the coalition dominated by loyalist oppostion parties with ethnic agenda, and perhaps the passage of S-3457 in the senate for accountability, human rights and democracy, I presume. Even if those were part of the concerns disclosed above, there is no justification for requesting for poitical space as if political space is quantitative variale, rather than a qualitative event, for which these should have confronted the regime head on in terms of unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. The only logical that is posed to adjust its policy directives in terms of the legislature in one voice by all parties in a coordinated and effective manner.

    Who in the right mind believes of the request of the security chief to the US Government to label the liberation movements as terroists, that itself created with with ethnic and secessionist rights and/or policies, without condoning the heavy handedness of the regime. What it is to be condemned perhaps, this liberation movements are taking the same path that TPLF and EPLF were taking against the previous regime emanating from the socialistic revolution of the student movement in terms of oppression of the nations and nationalities from the previous regimes, which have come and gone. Now it is time for them to merge with EPPF and Ginbot 7, without the using the strategy “enemy of your enemy is my friend” on the armed struggle and secenario of adopting the same strategy with ex-TPLFites. For that matter, I do not buy the Security Chief,s assertion on Ato Siye Abraha as a threat to the status quo of etnic and secessionist politics and/or policies of the current regime. I do not see any ideological or differences in party platform between the two parties. Therefore, unless the liberation movements abandon, their ethnic-based armed struggle, and the opposition parties abandon their ethnic based agenda and coalesce around the goals for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, and adopted strategies, the Muliti-layer, hierarchical model of TPLF/eprdf regime, which does not represent Ethiopian Nationalism and Ethiopian National Intersts will be implicitely sustaind than undermined.

  8. seifu
    | #8

    meles agazzi leader will gone soon.
    A US high official admitted and said that they
    knew ERITREA is more stronger than ethiopia
    but the only thing we wanted is someone who
    does our job without questioning and MELES
    was one such leader of one African country
    and accepted him as friend eventhough the
    country he lead was/is weak because we wanted
    our job be done

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