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

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students 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.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid