News / Africa

    Africans Ponder Future After Ethiopian Prime Minister's Death

    A woman wails while lifting a portrait of the late Ethiopian Prime Minsiter Meles Zenawi as she waits for the arrival of his remains in the capital Addis Ababa, August 21, 2012.
    A woman wails while lifting a portrait of the late Ethiopian Prime Minsiter Meles Zenawi as she waits for the arrival of his remains in the capital Addis Ababa, August 21, 2012.
    Jill Craig
    NAIROBI — News of the death of long-time Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi shocked many people throughout Africa. Known for turning his country into one of the continent's fastest growing economies as well as for his dubious record on human rights, Meles was in power for 21 years. His death triggered broad speculation about the future for Ethiopia and its neighbors.

    At age 57, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died Monday evening after a prolonged illness, according to government officials. Details about how he died, and where, are still unknown. The secrecy surrounding his demise seems to reflect the equally secretive government over which he ruled.

    Medhane Tadesse, an academic specialist on security issues in Africa, with the Center for Policy Research and Dialogue in Addis Ababa, says that after two decades of ruling Ethiopia, Meles was a fixture in the political arena.

    “He was not only simply a leader, he was almost a supreme leader of the whole political establishment," he says. "So it’s a big loss in terms of the political system.”

    Medhane says that despite his shortcomings, Meles was a true believer in economic development for his country.

    “I really appreciated his laser-type of focus on the economic development of the country," added Medhane. "He was very critical and he was very devoted on that, but also at the expense of political liberalization, openness and decentralization. So his economic legacy will be applauded. In that case, it’s a big loss.”

    Although she agrees that Meles made economic development a priority, Human Rights Watch's deputy director for Africa, Leslie Lefkow, says his legacy will ultimately be tarnished by human-rights abuses.

    “In the past five to seven years, or last decade or so, Ethiopia has increasingly gone in the wrong direction when it comes to human rights," she says. "We’ve seen a rash of very permissive legislation passed by the Ethiopian government that has restricted freedom of expression and freedom of speech in fundamental ways. We’ve seen the persecution of independent media and Ethiopian rights activists, which [the Ethiopian goverment] has jailed many of these individuals and forced others into exile.”

    An Ethiopian government official who asked to remain anonymous argued that there is an independent press in the country, and it does function. He said that it is “nowhere near as bad as Human Rights Watch claims.”

    The official also said that Ethiopia is on the front lines of the effort to control terrorism, with issues stemming from within the country and with its neighbors Eritrea and Somalia. As a result, the government in Addis Ababa has passed tough legislation modeled on laws in Europe and the United States.

    Because of Ethiopian intervention in Somalia, Abdihakim Aynte, a director at the Somali Forum for Progress, says Meles’ death is going to change the course of that country as well.

    “I think a lot of people will feel relief, because they believe [Mr.] Meles has been a center of the Somali issue, and on any aspect of Somali politics, he’s played a role in terms of influencing Somali politicians,” says Aynte.

    Human Rights Watch's Lefkow says stability will now be a major concern for Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa.

    “And unfortunately, the political structure in Ethiopia has been very opaque, so we know that power has been centralized in a small number of ruling-party insiders," says Lefkow. "And there are concerns that there may be a power struggle or jockeying among some of these individuals, that some of the armed opposition groups and other regional powers such as Eritrea could try to take advantage of a power vacuum.”

    State media say Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will serve as Ethiopia's acting prime minister.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    August 22, 2012 7:35 AM
    Sry but nothing will happen to Ethiopia----for those of you who always dream to flame issues...sry but u won`t get anything from Ethiopia!!

    by: Kefena from: Ethiopia
    August 22, 2012 4:34 AM
    I have a couple of questions to Lefkow. 1. Were the westerns as democratic nations as they are now when they were at a developmental stage like Ethiopia is now on? 2. Should it be the Western democracy or economic development that should precede to pull Africa out widespread poverty? 3. Can you export your Western democracy to African nations who cannot even able to feed themselves? 4. Why Westerns try to avoid leaders that do not want align to they policy and implement their agenda? 5. From this perspective, do you think that there is real democracy exportation by Western powers? Western are gambling with African resources and leaders, I guess!!!!

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora