Does Meles’ departure mean little for the regime and world?

By T, Staffer of De Birhan Media

August 08, 2012 

Meles Zenawi

Meles vanished around two months ago, most TPLFities and government officials have been saying that Meles was a human being and his departure from his position would have no impact either on the government or the ruling party. They pretend as if they were not worried and no story is happening regarding in the backroom. That is the quality of this regime and its apostles. They can do their thing with a zipped mouth, for how long though? They appear calm while their essence is not. 

Despite their claims that Meles was well and in a “better condition”, he cannot come back on the media for at least five minutes and refute the growing reports that declare his ‘death’. There are various outlets that say the regime has been deliberating on who should take over the Prime Minister’s post. 

Sibhat Nega, veteran of the ruling party also admitted, either deliberately or through a slip of a tongue, on Deutsche Welle Radio Amharic Service that that they are now at the stage and working on “power succession”. Two weeks ago, the same Sebhat said that the death, resignation or removal of “individuals” within the regime and party makes no difference on the health of the regime as it has built “strong institutions”. 

Meles Zenawi’s silver tongues and his “yes sirness” to donors have made him the darling of many enabling him to preside over various international projects and organisations.  
But is that really so? Does Meles’ sudden departure from his post due to death or ill health have little effect on the regime or world?

We argue it does have enormous repercussions. At least his sudden unplanned departure gets many into a  jam both locally and internationally. Let’s broach some of them: 


§  Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is the Co-Chairperson of the Global Coalition for Africa (GCA.). The Global Coailition for Africa brings together senior African policy makers and their partners to deepen dialogue and build consensus on Africa’s priority development issues. Meles in this position entertained a lot of weight and roles. There are several programs and plans that he has planned to be executed by himself  within the Coalition.  This World Bank Project will remain ‘leaderless’ after Meles. 

§  In 2004, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom appointed Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as one of the Commissioners taking part in the Commission for Africa. This Commission claims to work for “a strong and prosperous Africa”. Meles’ roles within this Commission are unclear but are surely significant. His departure would big time affect the Commission’s undertakings.


§ Meles lead the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). NEPAD’s primary objectives are to eradicate poverty, to place African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, to halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process, to accelerate the empowerment of women and to fully integrate Africa into the global economy. NEPAD is one big lot of Organization that takes the Prime Minister’s vastest period of daily chores. Meles’ total absence means NEPAD will be losing its key figure all of a sudden with unfinished and un-transferred projects and a vacant spot.

§ Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has often been chosen to represent Africa at the G8 Summit and the G20 summit in London. Western powers and organizers  of  the G8 and G20 summits would find it very difficult to easily pick a replacement who would be as ‘fitting’ as Meles Zenawi.

§  In February 2010, the UN named Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as co-chair of the Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, a new high-level U.N. advisory group on climate change financing.  He has taken so many roles and responsibilities of generating finances  on behalf of the Group. Another opening due to him suddenly departing.  


§  Horn of Africa : Regionally, as the East African reported in its latest issue “Zenawi has been one of the key players in the fight against the Somali militant organisation Al-Shabaab. He also actively participated in resolving the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, which has seen the two countries fight several brief border wars.Zenawi has also been one of the movers behind massive development projects like Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Project (LAPSSET).”  All these projects may continue but not as they would while in Meles’ presence. With his absence, Meles takes the personal involvements, roles and secrets that he kept alone alongside. 


§  Chairman of Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Chairman of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and  the Commander-in-Chief of Ethiopian Armed Forces: all these posts have been held undeteringly for over two decades by one person only : Meles Zenawi. In Meles’ absence the Ethiopia armed forces have no one to take orders from. Both TPLF and EPRDF the makers and breakers of the national politics  and regime have not got their usual leader who used to fire members he viewed as a challenge and pull those he liked. The parties and Ethiopian army has no leader at the moment. 
In general, Meles’ sudden departure would leave the regime in Addis Abeba,  and the regional and international organisations that he was involved in, vacant and in trouble. The troubles could be in finding proper successors that would resemble him, are capable of continuing what he started. Meles will go with the secrets, back door deals and responsibilities that he alone secreted. The regime’s heavyweights are often heard saying that they have built a “strong institution”  that cannot be altered when people/leaders change or move.  The truth is, the institution that they claim to have built and speak proudly of is the “one ethnic group led security apparatus: the military and the intelligence”. The day that one or a group dissent from the security apparatus, the so called vague “institutionalization” crumbles. Meles Zenawi had the qualities of holding this security apparatus together and loyal to him. Would the incoming PM be able to do same?

Article 74 of the current Constitution states that the Prime Minister is the Chief Executive, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and the Commander-in-Chief of the national armed forces. It seems when the Constitution was written Meles thought he was going to reign forever. The Prime Minister is like an absolute Monarch in Ethiopia’s case according to the current constitution. The next person who comes on Meles’ foots would hold all these gigantic executive powers which include firing Generals, dissolving the Parliament or reshuffling the government and forming a new regime. Although the suspected successors of Meles such as Dr. Tewodros Adhanom, Berhane Gebrekirstos, Abay Woldu and Arkebe Okubay come from the same party and ethnic group as Meles, they all have different characteristics, experiences and virtues from Meles. There is no guarantee that these newcomers may not be democratic, reformists and peace makers. The successor of Meles has all the absolute opportunity, executive power and ‘personality’ to open a national dialogue and negotiation with all oppositions, free all political prisoners and start a new democratic course for a new Ethiopia. This may include Hailemariam Dessalgne may he inherit Meles’ place. The room for the severe administration and extreme dictatorialness of the new Prime Minister is also wide open, but lets not hope for this to be the case. 

The point here is : as the Ethiopian constitution assigns absolute power to/on the Prime Minister, the upcoming Prime Minister (even if guarded by radical old guards), could reform the system and country  by using the security apparatus or without. People differ, it is a truism. 

The point here is : as the Ethiopian constitution assigns absolute power to/on the Prime Minister, the upcoming Prime Minister (even if guarded by radical old guards), could reform the system and country  by using the security apparatus or without. People differ, it is a truism.