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.
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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs