News / Africa

Marquee Ethiopia Election Matchup Pits PM vs Former Comrade

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi 16 Dec 2009 (file photo)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi 16 Dec 2009 (file photo)

Ethiopia's May 23 elections for parliament have produced some interesting match-ups, with several prominent government officials facing stiff competition.  One contest pits Prime Minister Meles Zenawi against a former comrade in arms, Aregash Adane.

Aregash Adane seems an unlikely challenger to one of Africa's most respected leaders. Invited for an interview about her bid to unseat the prime minister, she arrives on foot. No aides, no driver, no car.

"I'm only a few kilometers away," she explains, "and I like to walk".

Aregash Adane knows Meles Zenawi well. They are both from Adwa, in the northern Tigray region. The legislative seat they are contesting represents the town. She is three years older than the 54-year-old prime minister, but says they have close family ties.

"Adwa is both his home and my home. His family and my family are very close. They are friends. We are neighbors," she added.

Mr. Meles and Ms. Aregash began their political careers as comrades in a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF).  They fought together to overthrow the murderous Dergue regime led by the Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.  When the Dergue collapsed in 1991, the TPLF seized power.

Mr. Meles became leader of both the TPLF and the new ruling coalition called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).  Ms. Aregash was the senior female member of the decision-making central committee.

But in 2001, a power struggle split the TPLF.  Mr. Meles crushed his opponents.  The rival faction, including Aregash Adane, was banished to the political wilderness.

Ms. Aregash says since then, Mr. Meles has followed Leninist principles, establishing himself as the head of a one-party Revolutionary Democratic state.

"It's a dictatorship," she noted.  "Revolutionary Democracy is a philosophy of communism or socialism. It was designed by Lenin to create a certain period where they could develop and transit to socialism, so the ideology itself is very dictatorial."

Ms. Aregash says her challenge to the prime minister is not personal, but policy-driven.  She argues that after 19 years in power, the EPRDF's promise of democratic socialism has failed to materialize.  She calls Revolutionary Democracy an ideology of the past.

"The EPRDF government has failed in the sense that it didn't build or create democratic institutions in the country," she explained.  "There is no era of socialism, at least in the immediate future, so the ideology which Meles is still following is, I believe wrong, so I challenge him."

The former guerrilla fighter says voters in Adwa are responding to her message, but she doubts Mr. Meles and the ruling party will give up power through the ballot box.  She says Ethiopia's elections are stage-managed affairs designed to produce a desired outcome while giving the impression of multi-party democracy.

"If people voted against EPRDF, they are not ready to accept it, so they have to create an environment where the opposition couldn't get a majority," she said.  "The only thing it's trying to do is portray he's creating an environment where the election has been held democratically."
 
The May 23 election will be the first parliamentary poll since the disputed 2005 vote, which gave the ruling party a solid majority. Allegations of fraud led to violent demonstrations in which nearly 200 protestors were killed. Scores of opposition leaders were tried and sentenced to life in prison for their part in the protests, but later pardoned.

Ethiopia's most recent elections, the 2008 local council polls, also gave the ruling party an overwhelming victory. After most opposition parties boycotted, the EPRDF and its allies won all but three of 3.6 million seats being contested.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid