DE RUEHDS #1416/01 1430515
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220515Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0714
INFO RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3496
RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 2729
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 8992
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHINGTON DC 0117
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001416
TAGS: KDEM PINR PGOV PREL PHUM ET
SUBJECT: PARTY-HACK ANOINTED MAYOR OF ADDIS ABABA
¶1. (SBU) Following its landslide victory in the April 2008 local elections, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) appointed Defense Minister Kuma Demeksa, an opportunistic 50-year old party loyalist, as mayor of Addis Ababa. In a conference held at the City Hall on May 20, the EPRDF also selected the Deputy Mayor, as well as the Secretary General, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the City Council.
¶2. (U) The 137 EPRDF city council members-elect appointed Kuma Demeksa Mayor of Addis Ababa in a ceremony held at the City Hall on May 20. Other EPRDF members selected for office include: Kefyalew Azeze--Deputy Mayor; Woizero Sinkinesh Atale--Speaker of the Addis Ababa Council; Elias Seid--Deputy Speaker of the Council; and Woizero Negede Lema--Secretary General of Addis Ababa Council. The EPRDF also selected ten heads of the various bureaus in the city administration: Abate Setotaw, Youth and Sports; Dulamo Otore, Education, Tsegaye H/Mariam, Justice and Security; Belaynesh Teklai, Finance and Economic Development, Fikru Merga, Trade and Industry; Getachew H/Mariam, Works and Urban Development; Daba Debele, Capacity Building; Dr. Hussein Mohammed, Health; Gebretsadik Hagos, Culture and Tourism; Ejigayehu Akberot, Women's Affairs. END SUMMARY.
BIO ON THE MAYOR
¶3. (U) The newly-elected mayor, Kuma Demeksa, a.k.a. Taye Teklehaimanot, was born in Oromiya Region of Amhara parents in 1958. He completed his elementary and secondary education in Gore town, Illubabor Zone of Oromiya Region. Kuma joined an elite police force in the early 1970's and was promoted to the rank of captain after the 1974 revolution that brought the "Dergue" military regime of Mengistu Hailemariam to power. As a member of the elite police force, Kuma served in Eritrea, where he was captured and made a prisoner of war by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) guerilla forces.
¶4. (SBU) In an agreement reached between Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and EPLF in 1981, the guerilla forces handed Kuma over to TPLF. TPLF "re-educated" Kuma and allowed him to join the Ethiopian Peoples' Democratic Movement, EPDM (the non-Tigrayan, junior partner of TPLF). In 1990, Kuma Demeksa quit EPDM to form the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organization (OPDO), the Oromo wing of EPRDF. When the EPRDF coalition came to power in 1991, Kuma was appointed as Minister of Interior in the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (1991-1995). Kuma's leverage at the helm of the Interior Ministry was overshadowed by the effective control held by Tigrayan security chief Kinfe Gebre Medhin (assassinated in May 2001). When Ethiopia's federal government was established in 1995, Kuma was elected head of the executive committee of Oromiya Region. Kuma remained President of Oromiya region until July 2001.
¶5. (SBU) Kuma temporarily fell out of favor following the split within TPLF in the Spring of 2001 because he supported the dissident TPLF group led by Seeye Abraha, who was later jailed for six years for corruption. In July 2001, Kuma was officially removed from his position as president of Oromiya region and Secretary General of OPDO because of allegations of corruption, abuse of power and anti-democratic practices. He laid low for more than a year.
¶6. (SBU) In late 2002, Kuma re-emerged and was appointed as one of the three State Ministers at the Ministry of Capacity Building under the supervision of the austere party ideologue, Tefera Waliwa. He served as state minister until October 2005. Embassy contacts say that Kuma convinced the TPLF leadership that he had been "reformed" and demonstrated unconditional loyalty to the party while serving as State Minister under the watchful eyes of Tefera Waliwa. Kuma was subsequently appointed as Minister of Defense in October 2005 when Prime Minister Meles reshuffled his cabinet in the wake of the 2005 national election.
¶7. (U) Kuma has been married twice and is a father of seven, with three children from his first wife and four from his current wife. Kuma received his first and second degrees from the London-based UK Open University while working as State Minister at the Ministry of Capacity building.
¶8. (SBU) Kuma's critics describe him as a colorless party-hack who has "been everywhere and has reached nowhere." Kuma is quite and reclusive and rarely meets with non-party members. However, he is committed to the party and very loyal to Prime Minister Meles. Kuma is said to be a survivor because he respects authority, is reclusive and keeps a low profile. He is not well regarded in Oromiya region, where he served as President for over six years, and has been labelled indecisive and ineffective. Kuma's appointment as Mayor has puzzled many residents of Addis Ababa. Observers expected that the EPRDF would appoint a sharper and more apt Mayor to address the multi-faceted social, political and economic problems of the city in order to win the hearts and minds of residents who voted overwhelmingly in favor of the opposition in 2005, and largely stayed home during the 2008 local elections. END COMMENT.
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