Archive for August, 2012
By Eric S. Margolis
IT SAYS much when the long-time rulers of two of Africa’s largest, most important nations, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, had to fly to Europe for critical medical treatment because their own nations lacked facilities and specialists.
Meles’ untimely death at 57 on Aug 20 in a Belgian hospital – probably from cancer – has left Ethiopia reeling. He and a junta of Tigrayans ruled Ethiopia’s 90.8 million people with an iron first since 1991 after they overthrew the murderous Communist Derg regime of Col Mengistu Haile Mariam. Mengistu’s Red Terror is said to have murdered tens of thousands and starved to death a million peasants.
Assessing Meles’ rule is difficult. He was one of Africa’s smartest, most sophisticated leaders. Meles maintained a reputation for financial integrity and personal austerity that was unusual in Africa, though his government was accused of widespread corruption.
Under him, desperately poor Ethiopia enjoyed a stellar growth rate of 7-10% a year, thanks in part to investments of US$5 billion apiece from India and China that includes major rail projects. Large dams were built on Ethiopia’s mountain rivers that boosted crops, but brought threats of war from downstream Sudan and Egypt.
However, the most important boost to Ethiopia’s economy came from annul infusions of some US$1 billion in US military and economic aid. Under Meles, Ethiopia became America’s policeman of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia had played the same role under Emperor Haile Selaisse until his overthrow and murder in 1975 by Mengistu’s Derg.
Western human rights groups accused the Meles regime of gross human rights violations, political repression, and silencing media. Washington closed its eyes to Ethiopia’s repression, as it did with Mubarak’s regime in Egypt.
Ethiopia and Mubarak’s Egypt became the twin pillars of US influence over Africa and close Israeli allies. Israel blocked criticism of their human rights records in Washington.
Egypt and Ethiopia formed an entente with four other close US allies, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and the new, US-engineered state of South Sudan. The first three are now sending troops into Somalia, financed by Washington. US drone aircraft now fly from Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s 138,000-man armed forces, backed by Cuban troops, battled neighbouring Somalia in the 1970′s Ogaden War and then breakaway Eritrea in the 1990′s. In recent years, Ethiopia has twice sent its army into turbulent Somalia in an attempt to establish a non-Islamic regime aligned with US policy.
In 2006, a moderate Somali government, the Islamic Courts Union, was overthrown by the Bush administration and Ethiopia, resulting in creation of the extreme Shebab movement against which the US and its allies are still fighting.
Addis Ababa faces a bigger challenge than Somalia’s quagmire. Ethiopia has been called Africa’s last colonial empire. Its minority Amhara and Tigrayan mountain tribes – about 32% of the population – have long ruled over a restive majority of lowland Muslim Oromo, 40% of the population, as well as Sidamo, Somalis in Ogaden, and other minorities.
Though renowned as one of the cradles of Christianity, Ethiopia is today a majority Muslim nation. Yet it remains ruled by a Christian, Amhara/Tigrayan-speaking minority, supported by the western powers.
Ethiopia’s voiceless majority Oromo have been seething with rebellion for decades. So are democrats and regional movements. There is a real risk Ethiopia could unravel, losing some of its lowland territories conquered by its 19th-century warrior emperors.
For Washington, which is increasingly involved in Africa’s affairs and energy resources, Ethiopia’s powerful army polices the strategic Horn of Africa and overlooks America’s new clients in Central Africa. Equally important, Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most important water sources and controls the headwaters of the mighty Nile. Its airline, Ethiopian Airways, is regarded as Africa’s safest and most reliable.
Historically, Ethiopian armies have crossed the Red Sea to invade Yemen and Arabia, and invade Sudan. European powers and the Ottomans have sought to enlist Ethiopia as an ally since the 1500′s. Though landlocked after losing Eritrea, Ethiopia remains a major power in the Red Sea region.
Ethiopia may try to escape the long era of despotism, as Egypt is doing. But given its internal instability and foreign power interests, it’s likely Ethiopia may continue under authoritarian rule.
Too bad. Ethiopians, one of Africa’s most capable people, deserve much better.
Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia. Comments: email@example.com
Source: The Sundaily
August 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm
By Ruth Alexander BBC
It’s rare for the leader of a country to die in office. Since 2008, it’s happened 13 times worldwide – but 10 of those leaders have been African. Why is it so much more common in this one continent?
Large crowds carrying candles ran alongside the hearse carrying the body of Meles Zenawi, as it made its way through Addis Ababa, on Tuesday. He had died, aged 57, after a long illness.
Earlier in the month, tens of thousands of Ghanaians attended the funeral of their late President, John Atta Mills, who had died suddenly at the age of 68.
Four months earlier, a national holiday was declared in Malawi to allow as many people as possible to attend the funeral of the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, who had died of a cardiac arrest, aged 78.
And in January, the president of Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha, died in a military hospital in Paris after a long illness. He was 64.
So, four African leaders have died in office this year alone. Disruptive for the countries concerned, tragic for the leaders’ families. But spare a thought also for the reporters.
“I seem to be getting an awful lot of calls in the night telling me an African president has died,” says Simon Allison, a correspondent for South Africa’s Daily Maverick website. “Why do African presidents keep dying?”
The question led him to take a close look at their survival rate.
“Go back just a little bit further and the list of dead sitting African presidents gets alarmingly longer,” he says. Indeed, since 2008, 10 African leaders have died in office.
Continue reading the main story
||Ethiopia PM, Meles Zenawi
||“Sudden infection”, August 2012
||Ghana president, John Atta Mills
||Throat cancer, July 2012
||Malawi president, Bingu wa Mutharika
||Cardiac arrest, April 2012
||Guinea Bissau president, M B Sanha
||Long illness, January 2012
||Libya leader, Muammar Gaddafi
||Killed, October 2011
||Nigeria president, Umaru Yar’Adua
||Kidney, heart problems, May 2010
||Gabon president, Omar Bongo
||Heart attack, June 2009
||Guinea Bissau president, J B Vieira
||Killed, March 2009
||Guinea president, Lansana Conte
||Unspecified cause, December, 2008
||Zambia president, Levy Mwanawasa
||Stroke, August 2008
Continue reading the main story
It’s certainly true that leaders are dying in office in higher numbers in Africa than on any other continent. In the same period, only three other national leaders have died in office – Kim Jong Il of North Korea, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash, and David Thomson of Barbados, who had cancer.
The obvious answer is that African leaders are just older than those of other continents, an explanation Simon Allison favours. He believes Africans like their leaders to be older – respect for elders is embedded in the culture of many of the continent’s countries.
August 29, 2012 at 5:58 pm
Temesghen Desalegn (Awramba)
New York, August 28, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s decision by the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice to release the editor of a leading independent weekly from jail and drop all criminal charges against him. CPJ also calls for the release of eight other journalists now imprisoned in Ethiopia for their work.
Temesghen Desalegn, editor of Feteh, was released from Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, the capital, at around 3 p.m. today, according to Feteh Deputy Editor Hailemeskel Beshewamyelhu. The journalist was jailed on Friday in connection with his articles that appeared in seven editions of Feteh and criticized the policies of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, according to local journalists.
Charges against Mastewal Publishing and Advertising PLC, the company that publishes Feteh, were also dropped, according to news reports. The company had been charged with inciting the public to violence by publishing Feteh, according to a charge sheet reviewed by CPJ. Temesghen faced criminal charges including defaming the state and inciting people to overthrow the government, the sheet said.
Desalegn Teressa, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, told Bloomberg News, “After further investigation, the prosecutors have decided to drop the charges.” But the government did not give an explanation as to why the charges against Temesghen and Mastewal Publishing had been dropped.
Feteh has not been published since July 20, when the government ordered Barhanena Selam, the state-run printing company, not to print the paper. The ministry blockedthe distribution of a Feteh edition with a front-page story about the conflicting reports surrounding the illness of Meles, according to news reports. It was not immediately clear whether Fetehwould be able to resume publishing.
“We’re relieved Temesghen Desalegn has been freed and will not face criminal prosecution for his journalism,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. “We call on Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression by releasing the eight other journalists currently imprisoned for their work and by ending the government’s practice of prosecuting journalists who voice dissenting views.”
Among the eight journalists in prison is independent blogger Eskinder Nega, who has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of participating in a terrorist organization and inciting anti-government protests, according to CPJ research.
August 29, 2012 at 10:54 am
by Barry Malone
Barry Malone lived in Ethiopia for almost five years and was Reuters correspondent there until November 2010.
I once asked Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died on Aug. 20 from an unspecified illness at age 57, whether he was a dictator. He grinned and then, stopping, just looked at me.
Nervously, I did what a journalist should never do, and filled the silence.
“A lot of people call you that,” I said.
He told me he didn’t care much what foreigners thought and that the people who described him that way were rarely his countrymen. “If Ethiopians thought that I was what you say, I would not sleep at night,” he said. “But I don’t believe they do.”
I persisted that there were indeed Ethiopians who called him a dictator and that they often gathered to protest his trips overseas — where, with his ferocious intellect, charm, and ability to speak in perfect paragraphs, he was regularly a star at meetings of the G-20 or in the snowy mountains of Davos.
Looking uncomfortable, he admitted that their presence saddened him.
“We may be at fault in some way,” he said, as my pen started scratching with greater speed, anticipating a rare confession from a man usually so sure of himself.
“I am sorry,” he said. “That maybe we didn’t communicate well enough to those Ethiopians living abroad what is happening. What we are doing here.”
Meles was not your typical one-dimensional African strongman — a term often applied to him by the Western media but one that seemed somehow lazily old-fashioned and patronizing, jarring uncomfortably with his bookish demeanour.
Meles came to power as one of a group of men who led a rebel coalition that overthrew brutish communist dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam — a man who killed, by most estimates, hundreds of thousands of people in anti-opposition purges.
There is no evidence that power was something Meles craved simply to line his pockets, though the financial dealings of Ethiopia’s ruling party are sometimes questionable. No private jets, Paris homes, or yachts decked out with shark tanks for this African leader.
Instead, friends said, on the very rare days when he wasn’t working, he liked to play a bit of tennis, chat about political events outside Ethiopia, and dress down in sweatpants and sneakers to eat and drink with a small circle of family and confidantes.
He was a man on a different mission. What he was “doing here” was pursuing a vision, what he called the “Ethiopian Renaissance.” But he didn’t like people getting in his way.
“He loved Ethiopia and was proud of its long history,” a Western academic who had regular email correspondence with him told me. “He wanted to restore it to glory.”
In the early hours of Sept. 12, 2007, Meles, decked out in traditional dress, stood to give one of the most important speeches of his premiership so far. It had just turned midnight and Ethiopia, which follows a calendar long abandoned by the West, had entered its new millennium with fireworks and tooting car horns across Addis Ababa.
“We cannot but feel deeply insulted that, at the dawn of the new millennium, ours is one of the poorest countries in the world,” he said, adding that “the darkness of poverty and backwardness” had dimmed the country’s once proud and powerful reputation.
“A thousand years from now, when Ethiopians gather to welcome the fourth millennium, they shall say the eve of the third millennium was the beginning of the end of the dark ages in Ethiopia,” he said to an ululating crowd.
The speech was not only important because of the ambitious vision it outlined, but because it took place just two years after the episode that will likely overshadow his achievements more than any other — the disastrous and bloody 2005 general elections.
It’s hard to overstate the fervor of that campaign. Ethiopians who had never lived in a democracy before were promised their first properly contested poll since Meles and his allies sent Mengistu fleeing to exile in Zimbabwe.
In the end, when Meles declared that his party had won a parliamentary majority, the opposition screamed fraud. In ensuing street riots, his police and soldiers killed almost 200 Ethiopians, most shot dead. Some were beaten to death.
The reaction from Meles was cold. He was sorry for the deaths, he said, but he’d simply told the security forces to “stop the insurrection.” These were not normal demonstrations, he insisted. Afterwards, opposition leaders were rounded up and jailed.
With the opposition out of the way, along with several journalists, he ploughed on with the day-to-day running of government. His economic achievements, and his role as an opponent of Islamism in the Horn of Africa, pleased Western donors, most of whom usually offered little more than a temporary slap on the wrist.
That’s not to say that Meles’s attempts at reform were all mere window-dressing. The premier and his government did much to let the light in. Under his watch, a safety-net system — a form of social welfare, he called it — for the country’s millions of hungry people was introduced, which, while unsuccessful at weaning them off foreign aid, ensured that the calamitous famine of 1984 and 1985 would never be repeated.
Economic successes continued even after the political turmoil of the 2005 elections. Under the leadership of this former Marxist guerrilla, Ethiopia became one of the fastest growing economies not only in Africa but in the world, posting double-digit growth figures for the last seven years in a row. Infant mortality plummeted. A small middle class emerged. Roads were built. Rivers dammed. Villages electrified. Despite this undeniable progress, most Ethiopians remained poor — something Meles insisted he was working toward eradicating with a series of five-year plans.
Masterful at dealing with Western governments, he cleverly played off their own security concerns and their rivalry with China and India, to which he also cozied up. There were few African leaders who could berate their donor countries while simultaneously holding out their palm for more aid money, but Meles had the chutzpah to carry it off.
These achievements are even more remarkable given the fact that, according to a Western intelligence officer who knew Meles when he was still a bush rebel and after he came to power, the premier entered office knowing almost nothing about economics.
“When I had my final conversation with him after spending the better part of two months in Ethiopia immediately after he took over in the summer of 1991, I asked Meles what he would like me to do to help him before I left,” the man recounted.
“I need to learn something about economics,” Meles told him. “Can you get me some basic books?” The intelligence officer then went to an embassy, looked through its library, and picked about a dozen volumes and had them delivered to the new leader.
Meles eventually sat for a long-distance learning degree from Britain’s Open University. He came in a remarkable third in his graduating class despite studying while governing one of Africa’s most populated countries (friends say he chain-smoked through the exams). Such was Meles’s command of economic theory in later years that the former guerrilla, who had in fact dropped out of medical school at 19 to join the rebellion, was often mistakenly believed by some journalists and diplomats to have been studying economics.
To continue reading this article visit foreignpolicy.com.
August 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm
THE death of Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s prime minister, on August 20th reveals much about the country he created. Details of his ill health remained a secret until the end. A short broadcast on state television, late by a day, informed Ethiopians that their “visionary leader” of the past 21 years was gone. He died of an unspecified “sudden infection” somewhere abroad. No further information was given. In the two months since the prime minister’s last public appearance the only Ethiopian newspaper that reported his illness was pulped, its office closed, and its editor arrested. Further details of Mr Meles’s death surfaced only when an EU official confirmed that he died in a Brussels hospital.
A towering figure on Africa’s political scene, he leaves much uncertainty in his wake. Ethiopia, where power has changed hands only three times since the second world war, always by force, now faces a tricky transition period. Mr Meles’s chosen successor is a placeholder at best. Most Ethiopians, whatever they thought of their prime minister, assumed he would be around to manage the succession. Instead he disappeared as unexpectedly as he had arrived. He was a young medical student in the 1970s when he joined the fight against the Derg, the Marxist junta that then ruled Ethiopia. He went into the bush as Legesse Zenawi and emerged as “Meles”—a nom de guerre he had taken in tribute to a murdered comrade.
Who exactly was he? As leader of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, an ethnic militia from the country’s north, he presented himself to his countrymen as a severe, ruthless revolutionary; yet Westerners who spoke to him in his mountain hideouts found a clever, understated man who laid out, in precise English, plans to reform a feudal state. In 1991, after the fall of the last Derg leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, the 36-year-old Mr Meles (pictured above) took power, becoming Africa’s youngest leader. He had moral authority as a survivor of various famines. Western governments and publics, who became aware of Ethiopian hunger through the Band Aid and Live Aid charity concerts, gave freely. Mr Meles was often able to dictate terms under which donors could operate in Ethiopia and turned his country into Africa’s biggest aid recipient.
Where others wasted development aid, Ethiopia put it to work. Over the past decade GDP has grown by 10.6% a year, according to the World Bank, double the average in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. The share of Ethiopians living in extreme poverty—those on less than 60 cents a day—has fallen from 45% when Mr Meles took power to just under 30%. Lacking large-scale natural resources, the government has boosted manufacturing and agriculture. Exports have risen sharply. A string of hydroelectric dams now under construction is expected to give the economy a further boost in the coming years.
The flipside of the Meles record is authoritarianism. Before his departure he ensured that meaningful opposition was “already dead”, says Zerihun Tesfaye, a human-rights activist. The ruling party controls all but one of the seats in parliament, after claiming 99.6% of the vote in the 2010 elections. It abandoned a brief flirtation with more open politics after a vote five years previously, when the opposition did better than expected. The regime subsequently rewired the state from the village up, dismantling independent organisations from teachers’ unions to human-rights groups and binding foreign-financed programmes with tight new rules. Opposition parties were banned and their leaders jailed or driven into exile; the press was muzzled.
Internationally, Mr Meles made friends with America, allowing it to base unarmed drones at a remote airfield. He also liked to act as a regional policeman. His troops repeatedly entered neighbouring Somalia (they are slowly handing over conquered territory to an African Union peacekeeping force). Hostilities have at times flared along the border with Eritrea. Mr Meles cowed his smaller neighbour and persuaded the world to see it as a rogue state. This in turn helped him restrain nationalists at home. In his absence, hardliners on both sides may reach for arms once again.
The nature of power in Mr Meles’s Ethiopia has remained surprisingly opaque. On the surface, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front is a broad grouping encompassing all of the country’s ethnic factions. Like the liberal constitution, it is largely a sham. Real power rests with an inner circle of Mr Meles’s comrades. They all come from his home area, Tigray, which accounts for only 7% of Ethiopia’s 82m people. His acting successor is an exception. Haile Mariam Desalegn, the foreign minister, is from the south. His prominence raises hopes that the long dominance of the Habesha, the Christian highlanders of the Amhara and Tigray regions, may be diluted. But few think he has enough standing to exert real control.
Power will be wielded by Tigrayans such as Getachew Assefa, the head of the intelligence service; Abay Tsehaye, the director-general of the Ethiopian sugar corporation; and Mr Meles’s widow, Azeb Mesfin. An MP, she heads a sprawling conglomerate known as EFFORT, which began as a reconstruction fund for Tigray but now has a host of investments. It is unclear whether any of the Tigrayans will seek the leadership of the ruling party or be content to wield control from the sidelines. A struggle among this elite would be a big threat to stability.
from the print edition | Middle East and Africa
Source: The Economist
August 23, 2012 at 10:50 am
Zenawism is over and now Hailemariaism begin
By Marthe Van Der Wolf
ADDIS ABABA — Government officials say Hailemariam Desalegn will be the next Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs is known as a soft spoken and humble man.
Hailemariam Desalegne is currently the acting prime minister and the foreign minister and will be sworn in as prime minister and run the country until elections in 2015. Ethiopian officials say the constitution will be followed.
Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died on Monday.
The ruling party holds all but one seat in parliament, making it unlikely that Hailemariam’s appointment will be opposed. Mr. Hailemariam has been foreign minister since 2010 but is not well known across the country.
Getachew Reda of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry has been working closely with Hailemariam for the last few years. Getachew describes Hailemariam Desalegn as a leader with good people skills:
“Hailemariam, is very humble, very friendly,” said Getachew. “The sort of person who will not shy away from drawing lessons from everybody, whether subordinate or whatever. He’s the kind of person that tries to create consensus among colleagues.”
A lot of nice words are generally spoken about Hailemariam and Getachew Reda says the new leader can also be tough when he has to be.
“Ethiopians know when to be tough,” he said. “Even here as a foreign minister within the government structure there are times that you could be surprised. I can assure you, when it comes right down to it, Hailemariam is like all of them he can be tough.“
The outside world does not know this side of Hailemariam and former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn says if he is going to be in power, he should show his tougher side to the outside world.
“It remains to be seen whether he has that toughness or not,” said Shinn. “He is going to have to show Ethiopia and the other countries in the region and international community that he is capable of doing that.”
Next to his character, Hailemariam’s ethnic origin is most frequently discussed. Unlike the top of the ruling party, he hails from the South and not from the north of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian political analyst Jawad Mohammed of Columbia University says that the appointment of Hailemariam is mostly symbolic:
“He is not going to have the slightest of power in hand, he is going to be used as a puppet,” said Jawad. “It will make it extremely difficult for the Amhara and the Oromo opposition as well as affiliate parties to criticize him the way they have done because to criticize somebody from the south who was more marginalized then the two bigger ethnic groups would be politically unwise and politically incorrect.”
Jawad says Meles Zenawi was in power since 1991. If the new Prime Minister will be able to hold its position for that long remains to be seen.
“I doubt he will have power close to Meles because Meles power comes from his own personal assertive nature,” he said. “And second is he was part of the armed struggle. And he built his stature, authority and command while he was still in the armed struggle. By the time he took power, he was the undisputed leader of the TPLF and also the undisputed leader of Ethiopia.”
The ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, will hold its party congress in September.
August 23, 2012 at 10:36 am
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles with his wife first lady Azeb
By Kirubel Tadesse, Published: August 21The Washington Post
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The death of Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, pushed his relatively unknown successor into the spotlight Tuesday amid questions about whether the new premier will merely serve as a placeholder or will become Ethiopia’s next longtime leader.Ethiopia’s communications minister, Bereket Simon, said government policy will remain consistent under Hailemariam Desalegn, Meles’s foreign minister and deputy, who will be acting prime minister until his swearing-in before an emergency session of Parliament. The ruling party controls 546 of the 547 seats in the legislature, all but ensuring Hailemariam’s ascension.
The country’s armed forces pledged allegiance to the constitution and vowed to defend it in the post-Meles era. Meles, who died Monday of an unknown illness at age 57, had ruled Ethiopia since the 1990s.Hailemariam was appointed to his ministerial posts in September 2010, immediately after the fourth successive election victory by the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A few weeks later, he became a deputy chairman of the party.
Although Hailemariam appears likely to soon take the oath as prime minister, the ruling party congress is scheduled to meet in late September and decide whether he will remain in the post until the 2015 elections. Political observers predict fierce competition for the job, and one said he doubted that Hailemariam could win over subordinates, including military and intelligence leaders.
“First, as he never exercised real power at a national level, there is little established fear and respect about him,” said Jawar Mohammed, an Ethiopian political analyst studying at Columbia University in New York. “Second, most of his subordinates are going to be individuals with longer experience and personal stature than him, which means they will overshadow him.”
Negasso Gidada, a former Ethiopian president, said he does not know Hailemariam well.
“But they must know him well and have a confidence in him that they appoint him a deputy prime minister. I have no reason to doubt that,” said Negasso, now an opposition leader.
The ruling EPRDF, a coalition of four parties, has always appointed important members of Meles’s Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front to key posts, including foreign affairs.
Charles Stith, director of Boston University’s African Presidential Archives and Research Center and a former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, said Meles’s death could end a relatively stable period for Ethiopia.
“His death is a reminder that leaders who long to stay in office often stay too long to allow the growth of the necessary institutional infrastructure that allows states to sustain themselves,” Stith said.
Hailemariam, who comes from Ethiopia’s south, did not take part in the ruling party’s 17-year armed struggle that unseated communist leader Mengistu Hailemariam in 1991. When rebels led by Meles marched to the capital, Addis Ababa, to unseat Mengistu, Hailemariam was in Finland studying for a master’s degree in engineering.
He said in a 2010 interview that he came back to Ethiopia because of family — his daughter was born when he was leaving the country — and because he thought that the nation’s situation would be better than under the previous leaders.
After returning from Finland, Hailemariam joined the Arba Minch Water Technology Institute, where he served for 13 years in different positions, including as registrar, vice dean and dean.
After a few years as a member of the ruling party, he was appointed vice president of the country’s southern region and later a president of the region.
He entered the national political scene in 2006 as an adviser to Meles.
Leslie Lefkow, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Africa, said that Ethiopia’s ruling party is strong but that its government institutions are not, opening the door for potential instability in the coming days.
“There are a number of worrying scenarios, I think, particularly in the medium term,” she said. “I think it’s a crucial moment for Ethiopia’s partners — the U.S. and E.U. and other international donors who provide a large amount of funding — to set out their concerns that reform and human rights reform is a crucial plank of the country moving forward.”
— Associated Press
August 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm
NAIROBI, Kenya — Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s technocratic but repressive prime minister, who lifted his country from the ruins of civil war and transformed it into one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and one of the United States government’s closest African allies, died on Monday, state television reported. He was 57.
Ethiopian authorities said he had died in a hospital “abroad” just before midnight after getting a secondary infection. His failing health had been shrouded in mystery for months.
A former rebel leader who had dropped out of medical school in the 1970s to fight Ethiopia’s former Communist government, Mr. Meles was considered one of Africa’s shrewdest and most intelligent leaders. He was known to be a voracious reader with a steel-trap mind who could rapidly digest mountains of statistics and quote large chunks of Shakespeare. He worked closely with Washington to combat Muslim extremism in the Horn of Africa, though there were growing complaints, even among his backers, about his penchant for violently quashing any dissent.
After becoming prime minister in 1995, Mr. Meles steadily concentrated power, boxing out rivals and creating a fearful atmosphere where criticism was not tolerated and journalists and opposition politicians were jailed.
Hailemariam Desalegn, the minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister, will become the new premier, the government announced on Tuesday. It was considered unlikely that he would command the same authority as Mr. Meles, and some were sure to see him as little more than a figurehead for a government that remains tightly controlled by Mr. Meles’s Tigrayan ethnic minority group from northern Ethiopia.
Many analysts said they did not expect drastic policy shifts anytime soon and predicted that Ethiopia would remain a close American ally.
Mr. Meles vanished from public view in June, and Western officials had said he was suffering from liver cancer.
In mid-July, the government’s chief spokesman, Bereket Simon, scoffed at the notion that Mr. Meles was seriously ill, saying “His health condition is very good and stable” and that he was just “taking some rest.”
Ethiopia is widely considered one of Africa’s most repressive governments, though it continues to get around a billion dollars of American aid each year. It is also a close American military ally, and American officials have privately said that one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s favorite partners to fight Muslim extremism in Africa is the Ethiopian military and security services.
Last year, the Ethiopian government sentenced two Swedish journalists to 11 years in prison after they were caught inside Ethiopia traveling with a rebel group. This year, it jailed a prominent Ethiopian journalist on vague terrorism charges.
In the past few months, the Ethiopian government has been accused of killing and displacing members of traditional groups who live in the Omo River valley in southern Ethiopia so the government can build a large hydroelectric dam and lease land to foreign sugar companies.
Mr. Meles was seen as the mastermind behind many of his government’s plans. While many human rights groups vilified him, some development experts lavished him with praise, saying Ethiopia has vastly better famine prevention programs than it did when Mr. Meles’s insurgent group seized power in 1991.
Under Mr. Meles, especially in recent years, Ethiopia has invested heavily in public infrastructure and branched into competitive businesses like flower farming.
Ethiopia has been considered one of the fastest-growing, non-oil dependent economies in the developing world, with the economy expanding above 7.5 percent last year. Still, it remains poor, with a per capita of income of more than $1,000.
Josh Kron contributed reporting from Kampala, Uganda.
August 21, 2012 at 9:13 am
Burhan Ozbilici/AP – Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi inspects a Turkish military guard of honor in Ankara in this photo from 2007.
By Matthew D. LaPlante
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — When the summer rains come, as they have in cleansing torrents over recent weeks, the 3 million residents of Ethiopia’s smog-choked capital usually inhale a little more deeply and exhale a little more freely.
But at this moment it seems the entire city is holding its breath. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the rebel-turned-technocrat who has led Ethiopia since 1991, is sick. And his long absence from public view has given Ethiopians cause to contemplate what their nation — now enjoying one of the longest sustained periods of economic development in its history — might look like without him.
Once regarded by the opposition as a natural ally, the United States is increasingly being viewed with resentment.
Relentless rains submerged half of the sprawling Philippine capital and triggered a landslide that killed nine people.
“We are worried,” said Makeda Taye, who will enter college in Addis Ababa this fall having known life under no other leader. “This country has grown stronger and it’s not certain — did it grow this way because of Meles or in spite of him? In absence of knowing one way or the other, we prefer things the way they are.”
The U.S. government has long viewed Meles as a stable partner in a region peppered with despots and religious extremists. The United States has given Ethiopia, which serves as an ally in the fight against terrorism and hosts a base for U.S. drones, hundreds of millions of dollars in aid over the years.
Meles’s health problems — the exact nature of which government officials have declined to disclose — came to public light when he failed to appear for a series of high-profile events, including the opening of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa last month.
Early rumors, apparently spread by the nation’s assorted opposition groups, posited that the prime minister had died in an overseas hospital.
Government spokesmen quickly assured the country that Meles was alive and, while ill, in need of little more than a short break from his duties, though they have declined to say where he is or when he will return.
Meles, the longtime chairman of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, presides over a nation where human rights groups say dissent, even of the peaceful sort, has often been met with a violent governmental response, including the killing of 200 protesters in 2005.
Under his rule, which was extended for an additional five years in 2010 when the incumbent reportedly received 99 percent of the vote, tens of thousands of dissidents have been jailed. So have hundreds of journalists.
“He’s like other leaders in Africa; some are better and some are worse, but all of them are addicted to power,” said Tola Benti, a young businessman who would like to see a change in leadership, even though he says it is a bit frightening to imagine what his nation would look like under someone else.
Meles, 57, hasn’t exhibited the same ostentatious instability for riches and power as many other regional strong men. Under his rule, religious and press freedoms have been slowly expanded, and a multi-party parliament has been established. Meles also claims to be anticipating his eventual resignation with some relish, telling FT Africa in 2009 that a peaceful transfer of power — which would be a first in Ethiopia’s modern history — “is a precedent that I would almost kill to set.”
Source: The Washington post
August 8, 2012 at 8:51 am
MELES ZENAWI, Ethiopia’s usually dynamic prime minister, has not been seen in public since mid-June. Regularly invited to grand gatherings such as those of the G8 and G20, he has often been deemed “the voice of Africa”. But he was notably absent earlier this month from a summit of the African Union in his own capital, Addis Ababa. His government added to the uncertainty by first denying that he was critically ill in a hospital in Belgium, then announcing that he was away on sick leave. When a weekly newspaper was about to publish an article on his health, the authorities stopped the presses.
What if Mr Meles goes for good? After 21 years at the helm, his sudden incapacity has forced the succession issue trickily into the open. For the moment it is not even clear whether his deputy, Hailemariam Desalegn, who is also foreign minister, is temporarily in charge. A former defence minister, Seeye Abraha, now a critic, says that Mr Meles, his college classmate, has created a system that is dangerously reliant on him. “He will be leaving very big boots that cannot be filled by anyone else.” A graduate of Britain’s Open University, Mr Meles has been known for his wide reading, relatively austere habits, and the success of his development policy. Under his remit Ethiopia, one of the world’s poorest countries, has become a donor darling. Nearly $4 billion of aid pours in every year—most of it to good effect.
But he has also been criticised for the increasing harshness of his politics and for his vaunted experiment in “authoritarian development”. His government has accepted foreign aid, but he has ignored pleas to respect democracy and human rights, citing China as his model. Mr Meles has gambled that donors are keener to see good results from their money than to require proof of democratic behaviour. And the West has been grateful for Ethiopia’s service as a regional policeman in a turbulent neighbourhood. Mr Meles has let the Americans fire drones from Ethiopia. He has also sent his own troops into Sudan and against jihadists in Somalia.
Mr Meles’s economic record is hard to match. Ethiopia claims to have been growing by an average of 11% a year since 2004. Some World Bankers say those figures may be optimistic, but only slightly. A string of huge dams are being built to boost hydroelectric power fivefold by 2015. That should generate electricity for vast new farms spread over 3m hectares of arable land granted to foreign and local firms.
Environmentalists, however, say that the dams will make lakes in Kenya run dry. And human-rights groups say local people will be forcibly resettled. Mr Meles dismisses such complaints out of hand. Dissident or investigative journalists have been jailed or driven into exile. In July a prominent online journalist, Eskinder Nega, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Moreover, rapid economic growth has come at a price. The cost of living has soared. Inflation at one point last year was running at over 40% a year, though it has since come down. Food prices have quadrupled in the past 12 months. Graduates are finding it harder to get jobs. Wages lag far behind inflation. Some senior civil servants earn as little as $250 a month.
On paper, Mr Meles’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front should weather a transition. It has all but one of the seats in Ethiopia’s parliament after sweeping the 2010 elections, officially with 99.6% of the vote. At the previous poll in 2005 the opposition took the capital and claimed to have won nationwide. The crackdown that followed left at least 200 people dead, 30,000 arrested, and opposition leaders in the dock for treason.
Since then the ruling party has expanded its membership from 300,000 to more than 4m out of a population of about 85m. With 85% of Ethiopians living in the countryside, everything from jobs and food aid to seeds and school places is in the party’s gift. State and party have been conflated.
Meanwhile Mr Meles, at 57, has promoted younger people, such as Mr Hailemariam, a water engineer with a degree from Finland. But power has still rested with a clutch of Mr Meles’s comrades from his home area of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, many of them once members of a Marxist-Leninist group that used to admire Albania’s long-serving Communist leader, the late Enver Hoxha. This hard core, including the army’s chief of staff, General Samora Younis, retains a “paranoid and secretive leadership style”, according to a former American ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn. Were Mr Meles to leave in a hurry, relations between the young modernisers and the powerful old guard might fray.
If the constitution was respected, parliament would pick a successor, probably Mr Hailemariam, whose southern origins might appease those who think Tigrayans have too much power. Officials say that Mr Meles had anyway intended to step down in 2015. Yet he was expected to remain in charge behind the scenes. In ruling circles the uncertainty is causing jitters.
August 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm