News / Africa

    Ex-Defense Minister: Ethiopia Faces Political ‘Crisis’

    Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with First Lady Azeb Mesfin arrive at the African Union summit being held in Addis Ababa, January 30, 2011.
    Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with First Lady Azeb Mesfin arrive at the African Union summit being held in Addis Ababa, January 30, 2011.
    Ethiopia does not have a firm leadership succession plan if Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is no longer able to head the government, according to a former defense minister.

    Seeye Abraha, who worked with Meles on the ruling party’s executive committee but who is now a member of the political opposition, said Tuesday that uncertainty and anxiety is growing over the nation’s leadership during the prime minister’s so-far unexplained absence. He blamed it on the country’s one-party electoral system and Meles’ one-man-rule style of governing over the past 12 years.

    Seeye Abraha, former defense minister, in Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy - Berhane Nguse)Seeye Abraha, former defense minister, in Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy - Berhane Nguse)
    x
    Seeye Abraha, former defense minister, in Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy - Berhane Nguse)
    Seeye Abraha, former defense minister, in Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy - Berhane Nguse)
    “They don’t have a system" [of leadership succession], Seeye said.  “This is a crisis situation and the dust has not settled.”

    He said leaders of the ruling Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and larger Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) parties had discussed a succession plan, but postponed any decisions until prior to a scheduled 2015 national election.

    Meles has not been seen in public for about three weeks, even missing the African Union conference in Addis Ababa that was attended by 29 other heads of state or government. Some reports in the international press have speculated he is suffering from a serious illness and has been receiving treatment since June 26 in a Brussels hospital.

    Information Minister Bereket Simon told reporters in Addis Ababa last week that a doctor has prescribed sick leave for the prime minister. Bereket assured the public that Meles is in “good and stable condition” and will return to work when he has recuperated.
    “I have serious political differences with the prime minister and his party,”
    Bereket, however, would not identify the illness or say where the prime minister was receiving treatment.  

    Reliable news about the prime minister’s health has been hard to come by in Ethiopia. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the most recent edition of the independent weekly newspaper, Feteh, contained a report on the prime minister’s health, but that issue of the publication was confiscated by the government printing house.

    Ethiopia 'approaching the end of the one-party system'

    Seeye Abraha said he does not know where the prime minister is or the nature of his illness.

    “I have serious political differences with the prime minister and his party,” Seeye said of Meles and the TPLF. But he said that now is the time for Ethiopia’s political and military leaders to work with the nation to plot a peaceful way forward.

    “We are approaching the end of the one-party system,” Seeye said.

    Seeye was commander of the TPLF’s rebel forces and a member of the small leadership team of TPLF fighters who ousted Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Derg leadership in 1991. They then created the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Seeye was defense minister for five years and later led planning strategy for Ethiopia’s border war with neighboring Eritrea.

    “The system does not depend on one person,” 
    The former defense minister said he and Meles finally parted ways over continuation of the costly two-year war with Eritrea. Meles expelled Seeye and three others from the TPLF executive committee.

    Then, Seeye was thrown in jail for six years on corruption charges he says were bogus. When he got out of prison, Seeye joined the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice Party along with a former president, Negaso Gidada.

    He left Ethiopia for the United States in 2011. Seeye, 59, now lives in Boston where he recently completed graduate studies in public administration at Harvard University. 

    If Meles cannot lead, who will?

    A member of the TPLF’s old guard, Sebhat Nega, told a VOA correspondent last week in Ethiopia that the government is functioning normally despite Meles’ absence.

    “The system does not depend on one person,” Sebhat said, adding that whatever Meles’ medical issues are, the government is secure.

    David Shinn, a former U.S. ambassador the Ethiopia in the 1980s, speculated last week that if Meles was aware of the need to plan for a successor, he would have had such a plan in place. He added, however, that if Meles’ health problem came on suddenly, the political fallout could be more serious.

    “If this is a more abrupt situation, then it could be far more difficult,” Shinn said.

    Opposition leader Seeye also warned of possible trouble, saying, any leadership transition would be difficult without Meles taking part. For the time being, Seeye said he believed a form of collective leadership was acting during Meles’ absence.

    “I wish him recovery and I wish that he ends his political exit with a positive and constructive and historic note.”
    Sebhat of the TPLF said such opposition speculation was the product of “wishful thinkers” hoping to take advantage of the current situation. He also denied that Meles ruled with an iron fist, noting the prime minister’s efforts to de-centralize government rule in ethnically diverse Ethiopia over the past two decades.

    “He doesn’t have any hand in the affairs of the Oromo, of the Amhara, of the Tigre, or of the Afar, et cetera,” said Sebhat.  “He cannot have an iron hand. He can never be a despot.”

    Does Meles rule by consensus or by fiat?

    Seeye disagreed, saying that Meles has been consolidating power for years.

    “Meles is not just the chief executive officer of the administration, he is the law of the courts,” said Seeye. “He could make his wishes the law of the land in a matter of hours.  That’s how he has been working.”

    Despite his political differences with Meles, Seeye said he hopes the prime minister will recover soon.

    “I don’t celebrate the pain of another human being or the passing of another human being,” Seeye said. “I wish him recovery and I wish that he ends his political exit with a positive and constructive and historic note.”

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Teshome Gebre from: Hossana
    August 01, 2012 4:35 AM
    God can give him a recovery soon!

    by: Mulugeta Birhnau from: Hossana
    August 01, 2012 4:33 AM
    I wish him recovery and I wish that he ends his political exit with a positive and constructive and historic note

    by: Samoa from: Ethiopia
    July 27, 2012 2:57 PM
    Dear Seye,
    great respect for showing maturity, your best wishes for Meles to recover, despite your political differences. We, however, do not forget your quotes "TPLF cannot only win a war, it can make one as well"
    In Response

    by: kebede from: aeba minch
    July 28, 2012 5:30 PM
    Regardless of his past political stand, seye can play very significant roll in relation to peaceful power transition.his GOOD WISH for meles is just joke! after all he is politician ...has to say so!!!
    In Response

    by: Gemechu from: Heaven
    July 28, 2012 10:10 AM
    I join those who commend Seye for his matured, civilized and humane wishes for the ill PM. Great Seye, you are very much appreciated.

    by: Yemane from: California
    July 27, 2012 2:42 AM
    I am commenting about the article which is writen on this page if Eritrean Athletes will defect during the London Olympics? I will asure you that even if you offer them a billion dollar, they will never defect their beloved nation. That's what some westerns are wishing. Eritreans are lerning about the west midia, history will change as of right now. You will never see Eritreans defecting. Every one will build the nation. Thanks to our beloved president.
    God bless our leaders, people and solders.
    In Response

    by: Beminet from: Asmara
    July 27, 2012 10:06 AM
    Except of course, you, sitting from your Ivory Tower in California!! It is difficult to build a nation from LA!
    In Response

    by: Teddy from: nairobi
    July 27, 2012 9:55 AM
    Dear, brother Yemane is this the reality on the ground? you know what happened last couple of years in kenya all Eritrea n football players except 3 officials returned back home.what do said about this shocking news? pls don't cover up our problem speak freely ur not live in Asmara?
    In Response

    by: Care-Less from: Heaven
    July 27, 2012 4:11 PM
    This article is not about Eritreans or their athletes defecting....... so, why don't you guys leave us alone and comment under your article.

    BTW, @yemane.... who's Eritrea's enemies? yeah! ... the best way to oppress your people is to tell them they've "enemies" all over the world ... trying to destroy Eritrea ... ooooooooohhhhh, here comes the boogy-man!
    In Response

    by: Yemane from: Cali
    July 27, 2012 1:36 PM
    Dear Teddy,

    Read carfully to what i said. I did not denay about the Red Sea team. Red Sea is not the only team went in to play sport over seas. How many syclists, athlets, singers, musitans... been playing out side and returning to their beloved nation. We will not see defectors much from now on. Do not forget how many anemies are eger to see that, but it will not happen. Eritreans are smarter than that.

    by: Al
    July 26, 2012 5:44 PM
    I am impressed Seeye, as most opposition activists blurt out hate and revenge in this situation, you showed what a really good human being should act and say. I feel the same, i wish the prime minister to be well soon....after all he is a fellow human being, makes mistakes as we all do.
    In Response

    by: Tsega Ze Ab from: Ethiopia
    July 27, 2012 3:03 AM
    Siye's comment is better that the bad Gidey.
    In Response

    by: MOLA from: SWEDEN
    July 31, 2012 6:30 AM
    Siye's can't misslead wiser men and woman list those who knew him for who he is. He is not different than Meles or Sibhat except that he lost the fight in the closed circle. His seemngly humane words clearly show his his hate to the man and his joy to the agony Meles is undergoing...

    Any way be it Meles or Siye ... your days are gone ...
    Time is for the young and the real human...
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 27, 2012 1:41 PM
    Siye has shown a lot of political maturity over the past couple of years. Good comment.
    In Response

    by: molla from: addis ababa
    July 27, 2012 12:12 PM
    Seeye Abraha:Thank you !!! Though I have different Political Ideology from You,I have learnt special thing from your inside.I thing this is your true being.Oh! unique quality from the swarm of political opposition leaders who are bad wishers for their compatrait and humabeing.
    In Response

    by: tolcha from: usa
    July 27, 2012 11:25 AM
    Both Seye and Melese are the same creatures. Rather, I prefer Meles. Seye, comes out of prison and became a nice politicians. Had Seye been a prime minister, He would have been more dictator and arrogant than Meles. No one believes you Tigrian Juntas.

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora