- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Kinfe Abraham, an adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, was in Washington recently, touching base with U.S. officials and the press to defend his leader’s policies in the face of negative events that have shaken the regime to its core.

“The government of Ethiopia has acted in support of its people’s national aspirations both at home and abroad,” said Mr. Kinfe, who is also an ambassador at large for Ethiopia.

At a meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Times, he called the criticism of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front “unjust and unfair.”

“The Horn of Africa from Sudan to Somalia has been a zone of conflict for decades. This is the reality under which we operate,” he said.

Beyond impressive scholarly works on contemporary issues, Mr. Kinfe has served as adviser to the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, which played a key role in negotiating an end to the 20-year north-south conflict in Sudan.

During President Clinton’s term in office, Mr. Meles was praised in the United States as one of “a new generation of African leaders,” committed to democracy, free markets and the rule of law. The group included Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. For Ethiopia, those hopes have gone from sweet to sour.

First, there was the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea, in which Ethiopia , a country of about 75 million, lost about 70,000 lives with nothing to show for such a large sacrifice.

Second was a decision by both countries to accept arbitration of the postwar boundary. The arbitrator awarded Badme, a craggy border post that had been a cause of the war, to Eritrea. Ethiopia responded by saying it wanted “more dialogue,” but Eritrea countered that “final arbitration means final arbitration.” There the matter stands.

Mr. Kinfe said he regrets that differences with Eritrea led to war.

In a more recent development, Ethiopia has become embroiled in Somalia, not for the first time. Addis Ababa is trying to support a powerless transition government against an Islamist movement that appears to be ending warlordism and bringing Ethiopia under one government for the first time since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991.

In a series of victories, the Islamic Courts Union captured the capital, Mogadishu, and quickly pushed elsewhere. The United Nations warned in a confidential report Oct. 26 that thousands of Ethiopian and Eritrean troops are in Somalia backing opposing sides, raising the risk of a regional war.

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