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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid