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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid