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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

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!!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs