News / Africa

Former US Ambassador Weighs In on Ethiopian PM's Health

 Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
Ashenafi Abedje
A former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia says the latest statements by Ethiopian officials suggest “a significant health issue” facing Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

During a press conference Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian authorities said Meles has been advised by his physicians to take “sick leave,” and that he will resume his official duties after he recuperates.

David Shinn, who currently teaches international affairs at the George Washington University, says he finds the reported official remarks telling.
“You wouldn’t make a statement like that that is so open-ended unless the problem is significant,” he says.

Conflicting accounts

Shinn notes today’s statement is at variance with earlier remarks by a TPLF party elder.

“There was a comment a couple of days ago by Sebhat Nega, a very close friend of Meles, indicating Meles will be back on the job within a week or so. So I think we’re talking about an open-ended issue,” he says.

The former U.S. Ambassador says Prime Minister Meles seemed in good health when he recently saw him in Washington.

“Prime Minister Meles was in Washington on May 18…I was there during a question and answer session, I did not detect any health issue. He seemed to me perfectly normal at that time,” he recalls.

Shinn says Meles has probably known about his health condition for some time and that this could not have been “some sort of a surprise issue” for him.
Potential succession

That being the case, says the former diplomat, Meles must have given thought who would follow him.

“I would be willing to bet very good money that he has been planning for some way to deal with this issue in order to insure some kind of reasonable succession of government in Ethiopia.”

Commenting on the hypothetical, Shinn outlines a scenario -- should Mr. Meles become incapacitated.
“In the immediate aftermath, you would have the Deputy Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegne  taking over, and then it would be up to the House of Peoples’ Representatives at some point to name a replacement Prime Minister,” he says.

Shinn says the success of any potential handover will depend on how well any such transition has been organized, and how long Meles has known (if he is incapacitated) about the need to organize a transition.

The former diplomat says if Meles has known about it for some time, it could be a “relatively smooth transition.”

“I think the way Meles works, he probably has done quite a lot to try to ensure a transition of the EPRDF at least through 2015 (through the next elections.)  After that, of course, it may be a whole new ballgame," he says.

Listen to interview with Ambassador David Shinn
Listen to interview with Ambassador David Shinni
|| 0:00:00

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous from: Ethiopia
July 23, 2012 11:12 AM
As human being, I wish a quick recovery of our PM health!, no matter what all of you say, this is my opinion! and I wish a smooth transition of power in case of worst situations!, We don't need revenge, we don't need who rules us, what I wish to see is eager to see Our Country to make big- big changes in terms of Democracy, freedom to speech, freedom to write, much more Development, Poverty eradication activity, Unity under diversified culture, religion,....., one strong, Ethiopia.

by: Dany from: addis abeba
July 21, 2012 9:48 AM
It is good to see him in life and resign from his position willing than go out by nature. Lets pass to the new one

by: From Minnesota
July 20, 2012 11:38 PM
The corrupted P.M and his TPLF cliques, your policy of divide and rule is obviously near to an end. I am amazed to read the comments of people who assume the buildings constructed in Addis or other cities reflect the economic growth of the country. Do you know who built those buildings? Do you know how many school children go to school without lunch? On the contrary hundred and hundred of Tigrai youth are getting their education abroad, and their tution and other expenses being paid in hard currency by their parents multi millioners and modern mesafints living in Addis and other cities. It's unfortunate that the woyane "EPDRF" created this dangerous situation between ethinic groups of Ethiopia.

by: AyzoshAgere
July 20, 2012 2:41 PM
Every Ethiopian except the few ones advantaged by the Meles regime is happy the dictator and phatological lier,Meles, is gone to hell, where he can not decieve the devil to come back.
I wish him a hell stay in hell itself. That is what he deserves.
In Response

by: AK47 from: ADDIS
July 21, 2012 12:11 PM
its always true that polticians benfit one side of the party and another to suffer, however, meles is different, he divided the country in very several piceses, its clear he is gonna go at end. its difficult to the coming leader whoever is to govern, becouse we gonna startover again. the damage Meles has done is never seen in half century.i wish all the best for the people of ethiopia.
In Response

July 20, 2012 10:46 PM
Typical amhara comment that lacks substance. And they are waiting in vein to celebrate and take short cut to power.

by: Mengistu
July 20, 2012 10:44 AM
Meles is great Leader ,I always see from him to win poverty ,He is hard worker The Great Leader of Africa.God with him
In Response

by: Shibru from: USA
July 21, 2012 1:58 PM
What language have you used? Not English, of course although Latin characters are there. Else, do it in any other language you may best express yourself.

by: Johanes from: USA
July 20, 2012 1:04 AM
He is already in hell ,I hope he dies such horrible death
In Response

by: Selam from: Ethiopia
July 23, 2012 4:15 AM

Why should you worry too much about English grammer so long as you understand what Mengistu wants to say. Of course, Your name tells your personality! Time may come soon that we can express in our language in a Cyber world like Asians and other European countries. At that time your "language" will remain at your "country".


by: Endale from: oslo / Atlanta.
July 20, 2012 12:41 AM
Shacka you are 100% right. The prayers has got the answer.

by: Abbawa from: Silver spring, Md.
July 19, 2012 11:59 PM
first and for most I wish Pm. Meles Zenawi for good health and quick recovery.
Secondly, the whole world and vast population of Ethiopia knows that Pm. Meles Zenawi is one of the most brilliant Ethiopian leaders ever and or may be even African leader ever. Meles surly out shines the alternative leaders would have been, such as Brehanu and Shawel.

by: KA,addis from: Addis Ababa
July 19, 2012 4:48 PM
Our brave leader, Meles, I am very confident that you will be back to your office very soon. We love you so much. Our country wants to see your remarkable achievements. We have many plans to be achieved with your best leadership. The future will be bright with your leadership. You will be recovered from your illness. I know very well that leading the poor country is a very tough task and you suffered a lot. Your sickness is the result of the burden. We all positive thinkers appreciate the best results of your success since 1991. Our country will eradicate poverty once and for all very soon. I wish you all the best once again!!!
In Response

by: Amara from: Addis
July 21, 2012 2:45 AM
I can't believe you call Meles brave have to be the only one think that...we know who he is and you will see what will happen to him the prayer's of ethiopean got heard .
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 20, 2012 1:12 PM
In Response

by: Dereje from: Addis Ababa
July 20, 2012 3:05 AM
I think every leader has his own good and bad part.its not a new incident only for Ethiopia.we have even witnessed this in the USA,the point is, we should be rational when we try to judge,but there is one thing i want to say about the diaspora,they are living in a well developed democratic world but they are thinking undemocratically,this shows me how blind and ignorant their mind is,...shame on you-losers.Ethiopia will stay blessed whether you think this way or the other.
In Response

by: G/Tsadik from: US
July 19, 2012 11:06 PM
As a man from his tribe, liars, this is what is normally expected from you man! Meles and his wife and The whole TPLF have robbed the country. How can you think of eradicating poverty while such mafias are robbing the country? I hope you don't deny this. Meles is a good leader for the thieves. He very well thought his cadres how to steal and how to lye to the people.
It is now time Meles should rest( as your officials said) from his evil thinking and doings.
In Response

by: hagos
July 19, 2012 9:45 PM
you will bury him in adwa soon my brother
In Response

by: shacka from: ATL GA
July 19, 2012 6:57 PM
There is saying,"you don't miss the water unt'l the wells rune out" You must be one of 0.01 person your tribe from Tigree.Melse one of the Fascist dictator i hope his days are number & he will rutin in hell

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs