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The cease-fire between Ethiopia and Eritrea has brought momentary quiet to the battlefield, but here in Washington there’s been no lull in activity on the part of lawyers and lobbyists working on behalf of the two East African nations. With an estimated death toll of over 50,000 and close to one million displaced people, the devastating war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has brought representatives from both countries to the halls of Congress. They are lobbying for economic and humanitarian assistance and are pressing the United States to continue efforts to end the hostilities. Ethiopia and its allies have spared no expense, hiring two of D.C.’s most influential power brokers — Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. At Verner Liipfert, managing partner Harry McPherson and partner Lawrence Levinson, who worked together in the White House as counsel to President Lyndon Johnson, have recently been making the rounds on the Hill on Ethiopia’s behalf, along with associate Layn Saint-Louis. Donovan Picard, an international law and trade expert who led a 16-lawyer team to Verner Liipfert when he left Baker Botts earlier this summer, has also gotten a chunk of the Ethiopia work. In contrast to Ethiopia’s large contingent of high-level lobbyists, Eritrea, a younger, smaller, and less wealthy country, has taken a grass-roots approach, enlisting its sizeable diaspora in the United States to send letters and faxes and arrange meetings with legislators. Martin Ganzglass, an attorney at D.C.’s O’Donnell, Schwartz & Anderson who has been drafting Eritrea’s penal and criminal procedure code over the last two years, is working on a volunteer basis for the war-torn country. A labor lawyer by trade, Ganzglass is teaching the Eritreans how to mobilize and organize their considerable resources in the United States. “I said, ‘Look, you aren’t going to be able to outspend Ethiopia. The only way you are going to be able to counter that is with numbers [of people].’ ” Regardless of the amount of resources both sides are willing to invest in their Washington machinery, each has a difficult task in trying to win favor with policy-makers. As catastrophic as the situation on the Horn of Africa may be, the two warring countries are unlikely to receive much sympathy in Congress. “They’ve alienated everyone,” says one Republican staffer, noting that the United States has given substantial monetary assistance to both countries in the past. “People up here on Capitol Hill are ticked off at the folks [who have] between them squandered enormous amounts of money on fueling the war while their people have suffered,” says another congressional staff member. BROKERING PEACE Since fighting broke out between the countries two years ago, the United States has been helping to broker a peace agreement, sending Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice — and later, National Security Adviser on African Affairs Gayle Smith — to the region. In October 1998, President Bill Clinton dispatched former National Security Council Adviser Anthony Lake as his special envoy to the region. Having traveled to the area more than half a dozen times, Lake has won considerable praise for his work mediating talks between the two countries. The three delegates have been shuttling between Ethiopia and Eritrea and to Algeria, which took the lead in late 1998 within the Organization for African Unity in mediating the peace process. The United States appears anxious to demonstrate its commitment to helping to promote peace, stability, and economic development in Africa, especially after a 1999 United Nations report criticized the U.S. for not taking more of a leadership role in the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda. Two weeks ago, in response to humanitarian concerns and charges of human rights violations from both countries, the U.S. State Department, which estimates that 1,700 Eritreans and 2,500 Ethiopians are being held in prisoner of war camps, sent Ambassador Richard Bogosian to the region to examine the issues. Next month, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke plans to submit to the U.N.’s Security Council a resolution to send 4,200 peacekeepers to monitor the cease-fire and withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, according to a Holbrooke aide. A CAVALRY OF LOBBYISTS Given the United States’ heavy involvement in the region, it comes as no surprise that both countries have built up a cavalry of lawyers and lobbyists to argue their respective causes here. Verner Liipfert’s Picard, who represented Yemen in its arbitration with Eritrea over the disputed ownership of a cluster of islands in the Red Sea, is now advising Ethiopia on the border demarcation process and claims resolution disputes involving Eritrea. “You have a sense of real anger with respect to the other side, partly because the [Ethiopians] feel they facilitated the independence of Eritrea, even though it left Ethiopia as a land-locked state,” says Picard, who recently returned from a trip to Africa, where he met with lawyers in the Ethiopian foreign ministry. “Then the country they thought had befriended them attacked them.” While it remains unclear which of the two countries was the first aggressor, disagreements over their shared border and trade issues, heightened by Eritrea’s introduction of its own currency in late 1997, are widely considered to be the main causes for the war. Verner Liipfert’s relationship with Ethiopia began in 1998, just before the outbreak of the war and at the same time that trade tensions with Eritrea were running high. The firm was hired to lobby Congress on various trade and investment issues and specifically on the African Growth and Opportunity Act, known as the Africa Trade Bill. Recent reports filed with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) indicate that the Ethiopian government has not yet paid the lobbyists for their work, which included “advis[ing] the Embassy with respect to the attraction of foreign investments to Ethiopia, and to increasing ties with the United States.” The Ethiopian embassy has doled out cash to Africa specialist Robert Cabelly of C/R International. According to FARA reports, Cabelly was hired in February and paid $285,000 for his work on behalf of the government, which included having four lunches with State Department officials. The FARA report indicates that Cabelly was charged with the task of “improv[ing] bilateral relations with the United States, and promot[ing] U.S. trade with, and investment in, Ethiopia.” The government is not the only entity lobbying Capitol Hill on behalf of Ethiopia. At the end of June, a group called the Ethiopian Civil Society, which is funded in part by Sheik Mohamed Al Amoudi, hired Akin Gump’s Bruce Wilson and Richard Sinkfield III to arrange meetings for them on the Hill and at think tanks like the Brookings Institution and the Woodrow Wilson Center, according to Wilson. “Their mission here was to talk to people in the administration, Congress, and the private sector to get a sense of what U.S. attitudes toward Ethiopia are,” says Wilson. “They are looking to do what they can to achieve peace and stability in the region and improve U.S.-Ethiopia trade relations.” Or, as one Republican source puts it, “The war is bad for business, and [Al Amoudi] would like to see it end.” A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS Since the cease-fire agreement was signed in June, much of the lobbying has focused on getting economic and humanitarian assistance from the United States. Ganzglass says he used his labor union contacts to get a meeting with Minority Whip David Bonior, D-Mich., on behalf of Eritrea. “There’s a dire humanitarian crisis here,” Ganzglass says. But it won’t be easy convincing lawmakers to come to their aid. Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, blasted both countries in a May hearing, saying that the “decisions of the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea have directly contributed to the dire condition of their populations.” Gilman took particular shots at Ethiopia, criticizing the country after it launched a massive offensive on Eritrea in May that resulted in thousands of casualties by some estimates. Gilman charged Ethiopia with diverting one-third of its budget to military expenditures while eight million of its 60 million citizens are at risk of starvation. “Let’s be very plain: what is taking place in Ethiopia today is a man-made disaster,” Gilman said at the hearing. The Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank, has reported that Ethiopia spent $467 million on its military last year, compared with $140 million in previous years. Two congressional staffers say that Eritrea has been receiving millions of dollars from Eritrean-Americans to fuel its war efforts. With both governments dedicating much of their personnel to the war effort, little is being done to deliver much-needed food and medicine to their people, who have been plagued by a prolonged drought, according to a report released in July by the Congressional Research Service. Adding to the problem, 54,000 Eritreans have been expelled from Ethiopia, while tens of thousands of Ethiopians were fired from their jobs in Eritrea, giving them little choice but to return home destitute, reported Amnesty International. Lobbyists for both Ethiopia and Eritrea are hoping to regain favor with the U.S., which for better or worse, has become a major player in the war. But while the amount of aid the United States decides to send to the region depends on Washington policy-makers, the peaceful resolution of the war may not. “The U.S. can mediate all it wants,” says Charisse Glassman, a staffer on the House Africa Subcommittee, “but at the end of the day, it’s the political will of the two [countries] that matters most.”

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