The new Head of Foreign Relations for the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF), Dr. Yusuf Berhanu Ahmeddin, told Poloffs the party seeks to replace Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, and is broadening contacts with the diplomatic community to keep diplomats informed of the ongoing issues. Yusuf asked for more humanitarian assistance for Eritrea, specifically in the form of emergency relief food, as well as USG pressure on Isaias to approve humanitarian access. The ENSF’s first Congress convened in mid-October to discuss the plight of the Eritrean people, approve the ENSF’s political program and elect new leadership. The ENSF supports the UN Security Council sanctions against the Government of Eritrea (GSE) and is concerned about emigration from Eritrea and forced relocation within the country.
Yusuf described the ESNF’s political agenda as peaceful, although he acknowledged that the ENSF has an armed wing. The ENSF has shown willingness to use force, as it did in a coordinated armed action with another Eritrean opposition group in the southeast of Eritrea in July. End Summary. 2. (C)
During a December 15 meeting, the new Head of Foreign Relations for the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF), Doctor Yusuf Berhanu Ahmeddin, briefed Poloffs on the first ENSF Congress held in Addis Ababa from 15-21 October. He said he was working to expand his connections in the diplomatic field in Addis Ababa and wanted to keep us informed of the ongoing situation in Eritrea. Yusuf presented Poloffs with a copy of the nine-page Political Program (emailed to AF/E) of the ENSF that was adopted by the Congress on October 21.
The ENSF’s First Congress
The ENSF convened its first Congress in Addis Ababa from October 15-21, under the theme: “To build a dynamic organization that would play a vanguard role in the struggle for the salvation of the people and the nation.” The ENSF, based in Addis Ababa, is one of the founding members of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), which is the political and organizational umbrella that embraces 13 opposition organizations or parties struggling to remove Isaias from power. 4. (C)
Yusuf described the Congress to Poloffs in detail, estimating that approximately 200 people attended the Congress. Eritrean Diaspora, with representatives from the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia, made up a third of those in attendance.
The ENSF’s Political Program included a Declaration that said a representative of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Chairman of the Secretariat of the Sana’a Cooperation Forum, the Head of the EDA, representatives of other Eritrean opposition parties, and reporters also attended.
The Ethiopian Government’s connection with the Eritrean opposition in Addis Ababa appears to be strong (Ref A), with the GOE evidently playing an advisory role as it did in 2007 (Ref B). END COMMENT.) Yusuf said participants reached consensus that the Eritrean opposition needed to unite to replace the Isaias regime with a democratic system that would enable peace with Eritrea’s neighbouring countries. Yusuf said that while it was the responsibility of Eritreans to replace Isaias, it was also the responsibility of the U.S. and the EU to support the Eritrean opposition because Isaias was stifling democracy and committing human rights abuses.
Yusuf presented a typed appeal to the Charge d’Affaires (emailed to AF/E) for the USG to help NGOs apply meaningful pressure on Isaias’s regime to allow them to provide food aid to the people of Eritrea to allow them to survive what he called the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
UNSC Sanctions against GSE
Yusuf said the ENSF supported the now-adopted UNSC sanctions against the GSE. He said the sanctions could be effective as long as they were directed against the GSE and not against the people. Yusuf believed the sanctions should ADDIS ABAB 00003068 002 OF 002 be directed at Eritrean Government officials to limit their movement, against arms trafficking, and against aid organizations that provided money and aid to the GSE. Emigration Remains a Problem for Eritrea – 6. (C) Yusuf said that emigration was a continuing problem for Eritrea, noting that in mid-November 824 Eritreans traveled to Sudan through Kassala.
He said Eritreans seek temporary refuge in Sudan as they prepare for onward travel to Europe, Canada, and the United States. Yusuf said Eritreans were also fleeing into Ethiopia at a rate of about 240-400 people per month to camps at Shimelba and My Ayni. (NOTE. According to UNHCR, there are closer to 1,000 Eritreans moving into Ethiopia per month. END NOTE.) GSE Imposes Forced Relocations of Eritreans
Yusuf said the GSE was implementing forced relocation of Eritreans in the Akele Guzay region into the northern lowlands of Eritrea. When asked why the GSE was focusing on that region, Yusuf posited it might be due to the fact the ENSF had an armed presence there. He said the ENSF presence in the region aims to stay in touch with and mobilize the local population through distribution of pamphlets, and to protect them from mistreatment by the GSE army.
Yusuf also told Poloffs that the ENSF has a “strong connection with the Afar region.” (NOTE. According to an Open Source Center report of a press release from Eritrean opposition groups, the ENSF (together with the Democratic Organization of Red Sea Affairs, DORSA) took coordinated military action last July against GSE forces, taking five prisoners. In the Political Program that Yusuf passed to Poloffs, the ENSF Congress noted operational cooperation with the DORSA without specifying the July episode. END NOTE.) Looking Toward the Future, A National Congress ——- – 8. (C)
The EDA is organizing a National Congress in June or July of 2010 and Yusuf said the ENSF plans to participate. The National Congress will bring together other Eritrean political parties, civic organizations, and academics from the Diaspora. The National Congress will serve as a forum for dialogue at which the EDA will benefit from a broader national consensus of all stakeholders. Yusuf told Poloffs that Ethiopia is ready to host the National Congress.
Comment ——- 9. (C) Yusuf is a medical doctor by trade and appears to be a new politician. He approached the December 15 meeting with Poloffs as an introductory meeting, presenting a general overview of the ENSF’s political agenda. Although he represented the ESNF’s method for removing Isaias as peaceful, we note that the ENSF does have an armed wing, and has shown willingness to use force, as it did with DORSA in July.