News / Africa

Former US Ambassador Describes Meles Legacy as 'Mixed Bag'

A woman wails while lifting a portrait of Ethiopia's PM Meles Zenawi as she waits for the arrival of his remains in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, August 21, 2012.
A woman wails while lifting a portrait of Ethiopia's PM Meles Zenawi as she waits for the arrival of his remains in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, August 21, 2012.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn said he expects a “relatively peaceful and stable transition” of power following the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, said, “I don’t think you’re going to see a collapse of the country or any significant opposition expressing itself in the streets or anything. I think it will go rather smoothly.”



Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is slated to be the new prime minister. However, a special session of parliament to endorse that appointment has been delayed. The postponement is not seen as an objection to appointing Hailemariam. Many MPs and other officials were busy attending Thursday’s funeral of Abune Paulos, leader of the Orthodox Church.

As for Meles’ legacy, Shinn said, “The legacy is several things. One would be his engagement in regional and even international issues to a much greater extent than you see from the leaders of most countries around the world and certainly most African leaders.”

That engagement includes the use of Ethiopian troops for U.N. peacekeeping missions and the military offensive into Somalia. He also spoke out on behalf of Africa regarding climate change. Shinn said Mr. Meles’ legacy also includes economic development and the building of infrastructure.

On the negative side, the former ambassador said, “He left a disappointing record on democratization, allowing greater opportunity for opposition politics and there were some obvious imperfections in his approach to human rights.”

Ethiopia has worked with the United States to help thwart terrorism. But Shinn said the two countries are not as close as allies as some would suggest.

“He had developed very close relations also with countries like China. There certainly was collaboration on regional issues and U.N. peacekeeping activities, also in terms of counter terrorism. But of course Meles saw this as being in the interest of Ethiopia. He was not doing this in order to ingratiate himself particularly with the United States. But he saw this as being integral to the security of Ethiopia itself,” said Shinn, who added that the Meles legacy was “kind of a mixed bag.”

Shinn sees no special significance in Meles’ attendance at the G8 Summit in Camp David, Maryland earlier this year. “He was invited I think because of the outsized role that he played on the African scene and simply because he was one of the most intelligent leaders on the continent.”

The George Washington University professor said it’s unclear whether there will be any easing of restrictions on opposition political activity or media freedoms. “It’s very difficult to say how that is going to play out. My guess is there will be some change. How significant it will be is quite another matter. One often forgets that the history of centralized control in Ethiopia goes back more than two millennia. You don’t change two millennia of precedence overnight.”

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

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