US takes Ethiopia's adoption of communist-party rule in stride

United States officials do not appear to be immediately worried about the Ethiopian regime's formation of a communist party and its adoption of Soviet-style Politburo rule.

''It's taken the Derg five years to get this party organized. The military leadership wouldn't have set it up at all if the Russians hadn't pressured them, '' says a middle-level State Department officer.

''It won't change anything in Ethiopia,'' he asserts, ''unless the Russians suddenly get generous and start giving the country serious economic aid instead of more arms. We (the US) would welcome that because famine is spreading in Ethiopia and more food will be needed in the months ahead.''

Formal initiation of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia took place last week on the 10th anniversary of the military coup that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie.

Despite Ethiopia's ties to the Soviets, most of its economic assistance comes from the West. Figures from the US Agency for International Development released at the end of August revealed that the US alone is providing $26.6 million in emergency food aid during the current fiscal year. This represents 51,000 tons of grain.

A recent World Bank study documents a steadily worsening economic situation in Ethiopia. The country's export earnings have declined sharply as world coffee prices have fallen, and Ethiopian coffee production has stagnated. Coffee is Ethiopia's principal export crop.

Ethiopia's balance-of-payments deficit is expected to reach $400 million this year. This means there is no money to buy grain abroad; charity is the only solution.

Ethiopian agricultural officials are hoping for donations of at least 250,000 tons this year. Europe, like the US, is being generous, but the supply of food has not matched need. Despite Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile-Mariam's unstinting support of every Soviet policy position - and praise for the Soviet system last week that brought smiles to the face of visiting Polituro member Grigory Romanov - the Soviet Union has supplied Ethiopia with neither food nor the money to buy it.

Ethiopian exiles in Washington protested the formation of Ethiopia's communist party by demonstrating in front of the Soviet Embassy on Sept. 12, the anniversary of the military coup. The exiles follow developments in their homeland closely and are informed of events in Ethiopia by telephone calls from relatives and friends.

Groups from several regional resistance organizations joined in what they termed a ''United Ethiopian Voice of Protest'' and condemned the Derg and the Russians for ''undermining the nation's sovereignty with deceit and military might, trampling on the rights of the individual, and imposing ideology by decree.''

''I talked to my wife this morning,'' said a local Ethiopian community leader late last week. ''She reported that security in Addis (Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital) is tight. For the population has no enthusiasm for the new party and resents the huge sums the Derg has spent celebrating its founding when people are starving.''

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