In an interview with VOA's Addisou Abede on Monday, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Donald Yamamoto emphasized the need for cooperation between the Ethiopian government and opposition to move the democratic process forward.
Yamamoto said that during his visit to Addis Ababa at the end of March, he met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and other Ethiopian government officials, as well as opposition party leaders, including those who are detained and facing charges of treason and genocide, and with their families. Yamamoto told VOA the continued jailing of the opposition leaders, journalists and others is "a clear obstacle to forward progress and democracy." But he said the United States is urging dialogue between both sides and a commitment to moving the political process forward, even as attempts to resolve the position of those detained continue.
Asked about efforts by members of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy to reformulate the party, even while its top leaders remain behind bars, Yamamoto expressed support, but stressed "that does not mean a new leadership." He said, "focusing strictly on those in jail does not advance political progress," but he added the opposition leadership, "wherever they are, their voices remain an important part of the political process."
On another matter, the U.S. State Department official said there has been "tremendous progress" in resolving the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea, as a result of the London meeting in early March of the independent boundary commission, attended by both sides. Noting obstacles remain, Yamamoto said the goal is to make sure that border demarcation leads to lasting peace.