EDP President Ato Lidetu met Senior Liberal International Officials In London

By EDP Support Committee – UK

Ato Lidetu Ayalew, President of EDP, met senior Liberal International and African Liberal Network officials in London. The meeting took place, after Ato Lidetu accepted an invitation following Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP) admission into Liberal International affiliated, African Liberal Network, earlier last week.

The meeting took place at the historical and elegant National Liberal club near the Palace of Westminster, overlooking Whitehall Gardens and The Thames River.

Ato Lidetu led a team of three EDP London support group members. The Liberal International team was led by Mr Robert Woodthorpe-Browne, Liberal Democrats International  Vice-President and Chairman of Liberal Democrats International Relations Committee; with him  were Elizabeth Onyango (LI Project Assistant), James Patava (LI Political Advisor) and Nick Branson (Africa Liberal Network Coordinator).

The meeting lasted for an hour and half. A number of issues were raised on the political situation in Ethiopia and also EDP’s role in the political process.

Ato Lidetu briefed EDP’s commitment to Liberal Democratic values to bring an end to the last 40 years of revolutionary violence and create liberal, democratic and tolerant society. He also raised some of the concerns and challenges, the country faces due to the absence of level playing field, which was reflected by the May 2010 election result. The result was a consequence, of limited media access, inequitable election fund to the opposition , EPRDF’s  unlimited access and use of all the organs of the government and state resources.

To put into context  the May  2010 election result, Ato Lidetu compared the 1994 first democratic election, in post-Apartheid  South Africa, which the ANC won only by  62.5% of the vote , where as EPRDF claims to have won the election by 99.6 of the vote, with it, all but two of 547 seat in parliament. The result is a worrying trend for EDP who had been working to help Ethiopia move from one party state in to vibrant multi-party democracy.

Ato Lidetu reiterated EDPs continued commitment to struggle for the establishment of a genuine democracy based on individual liberty in Ethiopia. EDP will intensify its campaign for national consensus, less polarised political culture and reasoned opposition to EPRDF.

Mr Robert Woodthorpe-Browne for his part, stated Liberal International’s commitment to play a positive role to achieve genuine democracy in Ethiopia based on the principles of Liberal values such as individual liberty, rule of law, free market, respect for private property and democracy; values also shared by EDP.

Mr Woodthorpe-Browne, welcomed EDP’s  effort to address the  unsatisfactory state of civil liberty and democratic  situation in Ethiopia. He reassured Ato Lidetu that Liberal International and members of the British Liberal party, will raise with the relevant officials and Ministries so that, they could engage and assist the democratisation process.

Currently a number of documents related to Ethiopia are being studied by Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords, the British Upper house, and backbench Members of the British parliament. In due course EDP will lobby ministers including Secretary State for International Development, the Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell so that the British government could assist creation of better level playing field in Ethiopia. The British Government is currently the largest donor in the EU with £214.3 Million ( 333.2 million US Dollar) of bilateral aid for 2009/2010. The bulk of British aid goes into budgetary assistance such as education, health and productive safety net.

Minister Andrew Mitchel visited Ethiopia two months ago in September 2010. His visit, organised by a British aid agency called Action Aid Ethiopia; he stayed with a farmer named Ato Aberar and his family in Southern Ethiopia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLgE_QeuEPk

Before the end of the meeting, Ato Lidetu reaffirmed the necessity of aid to Ethiopia for the foreseeable future to alleviate chronic poverty, however EDP believes in the de-coupling  of aid management from government political activity, especially in the run up to elections.

EDP will continue to lobby donor countries and the diplomatic community in their dealings with the EPRDF government to uphold values, such as individual liberty, human rights, free market, rule of law, free speech, economic liberty and democracy. These values are the only guaranteed way to rescue the vast majority of Ethiopians from poverty and underdevelopment in the long term.

EDP will hold its national conference, which takes place every two years, in three months time. It is expected a new president will be elected after the conference. EDP is planning further engagement and public meeting for Ethiopians in the Diaspora in the next few months.

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