Why did Arkebe Equbay defect to the United States?

Why did Arkebe Equbay defect to the United States?

In what is a clear sign of infighting within the TPLF regime, Arkebe Equbay, a senior Ethiopian official, defected to the United States and is currently residing in the Denver area, a source familiar with the situation informed Durame by phone.

Arkebe, who was on a visit to the United States, reportedly claimed asylum after an unnamed informant working with the secretive Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service tipped him off that he would be incarcerated upon his return to Ethiopia.

This defection is a colossal blow to the regime, which at one point, regarded Arkebe as the heir apparent to the late Ethiopian dictator, Meles Zenawi. In 2008, senior officials of the ruling party voted for Arkebe to lead the politburo. Arkebe, however, declined to take the leadership position out of fear of upsetting Meles, who had held the chairmanship since 1991.

Sources in Addis have said Debretsion Gebremichael, the current Deupty Prime Minister and a former spy chief of Ethiopia, is responsible for ordering the arrest of Arkebe. According to reports, Debrestsion sees Arkebe, who supports Bereket, as an obstacle to consolidating his rule over the country.

With Arkebe defection, Bereket Simon, the current Communication Minister and de facto ruler of Ethiopia, is quickly losing allies in the party. Bereket and Debrestsion have been at odds with one another that has split the TPLF party into two rivaling factions.

It should be recalled, this is the fifth major defection of mid to senior Ethiopian officials within the last 9 months, including Getachew Belay, the former Deputy Chief of EFFORT; Kefyalew Azeze, the former Vice Mayor of Addis Ababa; Atakliti Hagos, the former Director of the Federal Civil Service Agency and Junedin Sado, the former Minister of Civil Service.