NAIROBI, Kenya -- It's easy to confuse the interior of Nairobi's Habesha restaurant with a lost corner of Ethiopia. The smell of frankincense and thick, dark coffee waft through the air as the latest tunes by Teddy Afro vie to be heard over the Amharic-language patter of denizens from Addis Ababa, Lalibela, Mekele and Gonder. There's a good reason for the resemblance: Many of Habesha's clients are in exile for speaking out against the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
And if the 2005 elections as well as this year's campaign season are any indication, it might be even harder to find a table at Habesha come May's parliamentary polls.
On the surface, Ethiopia is a stable, prospering nation, cultivating strong relationships with the international donors who have for more than a generation funded food, health and infrastructure projects for the country's 85 million people. The United States has called Ethiopia a key ally in the Horn of Africa, representing a bulwark against increasingly isolated and sanctioned Eritrea and a comparative oasis of calm compared to perennially chaotic Somalia.