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Ethiopia: Where is Meles Zenawi?

Rumors about the health of Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Meles Zenawi have dominated the Ethiopian social media sphere for weeks raising questions about the future of Ethiopia without him.

Zenawi has not been seen around since G20 meeting which was hosted in Mexico in June. He has not even attended the 21st Ordinary Session of the African Union which is being hosted in Addis Ababa until 16 July 2012.

Netizens have been sharing their thoughts regarding his health and disappearance on Twitter and Facebook. Social media users have been wondering why the story about his health and whereabouts is overlooked by the mainstream media.

Janice Winter tweeted:

‏@janice_winter: Are foreign correspondents in Addis Ababa awake? Where is English news of Zenawi's ailing health & disappearance from planned public events?

Meles Zenawi at the World Economic Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 2010. Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On his Facebook page Desta Wegegnaw asked [amh]a similar question:

ኧረ ወሬው ከምን እንደ ደረሰ ንገሩን? ዶይቸ ቬሌም ቪኦኤም ምነው ፈሩሳ የጠቅላያችንን የጤና ጉዳይ መንገር? ማን ይሙት አሁንም አልሰማንም ሊሉ ነው? ድንቄም::

Deutsche Welle or DW and Voice of America (VOA), are you scared of telling us the truth about Prime Minister’s health? Or didn’t you hear about it? What an irony!

Abiye Teklemariam in his extended note on his Facebook page reflected:

Facebook is awash with rumors of Meles Zenawi's impending demise. Most of the variables on the ground in Ethiopia indicate that the regime is what political scientists call “Triple Threat”. Its features include a very strong military that is often used as a last resort adjudicator of political contentions, a strong leader with military background, and a party with an ideological facade that keeps its moderate cohesiveness. Triple threats resemble personalist dictatorship in that they wouldn't allow the rise of individuals with power bases to contest the supremacy of the dictator's rule.

But while it is very unlikely for classical personalist dictatorships to survive the demise of the dictator, triple threats have a remarkable ability to remain resilient even after the death of the strong leader because of the structure and power of their armies. In Ethiopia, the army is organized in a manner that makes collective action for opponents of the regime within it very difficult but mobilization of resources and man power by regime supporters easier. I think if Meles dies, we will see a quick move by regime supporters within the army to quash lone wolf rebellions inside the army and spontaneous mass uprisings outside. Were there organized opposition forces with the ability to exert coercive power in Ethiopia, the army would face serious challenges and might make concessions. Without such alternative centers of power, I expect a relatively quick consolidation of power and a return to a more repressive rule. This is a long-winded way of saying that people with democratic aspirations for Ethiopia shouldn't get all too excited about Meles Zenawi's death before we did our homework.

Daniel Berhane receive a dismissive remark from a government official when he tried to probe about Meles Zenawi’s health:

I did my best to probe about Meles Zenawi health and the answer I got could be summed up in this dismissive remark from one official:

“what is the matter with these [media?] guys…can't you live without rumors….can't the man get rest? he is just exhausted……we aren't gonna say anything b/c it not necessary. You will see him in a few days anyways…..”

Zelalem Kibret has collected Twitter reactions on Storify titled “Meles, Where are You?”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/belai.habtejesus Belai Habte-Jesus

    Ethiopia has a constitutional order and process for transition if there is a need for change in leadership.

    Ethiopia has always had a process for transition be it at the time of the Imperial era with Crown Princes or during the Military Dictatorship with a series of Vice Presidents.

    The issue is will the planned =transition  ever take place as planned!  In fact the EPRDF has put in place a three stage transition.First Phase:  Transition One  that started in 2010 where some senior executives left their position as Ambassadors, Advisors, Directors and Board members, etc.Transition Two:  2012 around September where another set of senior executives will leave to be replaced by the new set of leadership.Transition Three:  2015.  Before the election where a completely new set of leadership will compete in elections and the current set of leaders will retire or hold advisory or senior statesmen role.Within such well organized power transition, there should be no concern about what is likely to happen if in case some of the leadership have to step down due to either health, personal or party decisions.We need to ask intelligent questions without being intrusive and I will not be surprised if the PM does not appear at the weekend AU leaders meetings or provide some indications as to his health and competencies.I can speculate he might be taking a vacation!  I am sure he is allowed to do so once a year or at least once in 30 years!I wish all speculators to use qualitative and quantitative tools for exploring potential scenarios such as :Option One:  Best OptionOption Two:  Win-Win  OptionCompromiseOption Three:  Optionwith appropriate Decision Science option appraisal or relevant risk analysis options and scenarios.I suggest speculators to review first the Ethiopian constitution on issues relevant to power transitions within and without elections.I look forward to learn from your alternative perspectives.with regardsBelai Habte-Jesus, MD, MPHwww.GlobalBelaiJesus.com

    • mkll22

      Your comments are more interesting than news of Meles’ whereabouts. You must be joking or are simply divorced from realities in Ethiopia to refer to “three stage transition”, “decision science”, “Ethiopian constitution”, etc. What stage was the split within TPLF some years ago? Can you name the 9-member outgoing and incoming Board of Directors of Ethiopian Airlines and tell us using “qualitative and quantitative tools” if the “appropriate decision science” was ever used? You are either a deceived soul or out to deceive the unsuspecting.

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  • zele

    Meles is our hero ever seen in ethiopian history about his leadership i perfer to die my selfe than our legend and icon PM

    • Birkkale

      what ! you do not know the meaning of hero

    • gemechu2013

      die 10000 if u like, yes a person like u should die b/c u r liar. There r many like u who lie Eth people.

  • Engdawork Zerihun

    Meles semaniya milion hizib mere new bquter 15 swun masitedader kebad new betelyem
    yletemare hager hizib Geta lmeles Mihiretun Yilakilet

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5NMYAB3DH6UXGGEVYBTZLUNWUU limenh

    Meles malet re-ei’yachine woyim visionachine new. Ye meles metamem ye re-ei’ woyim visionachine metamem new. Selewodefit tesfachine sil amlak yimarilen.  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TP5A6KCZIBM6AMDP7EHOSG65I Getacew Doctor

    It is appericable

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