Ethiopia Faces Dangers but Also Opportunities in Meles Succession
Despite tensions in the ruling party over choosing a replacement, the passing of a man who ruled for a generation may produce a more responsive government
By William Lloyd-George, Addis Ababa, September 7, 2012
Nibret Gelese spent years saving up to move from his home town Mekele, in the north of Ethiopia, and make a newlife in Addis Ababa. “Everyone said it was the place to be, the place to get rich,” he tells TIME shutting the rusty door to his small phone shop. “Now I’m not sure what to expect, everyone is pretty scared about what might happen without Meles.” Nibret’s anxiety over life without Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died August 20 from an undisclosed illness after ruling Ethiopia for 21 years, is echoed across the sprawling capital. “Meles was our hero, he kept the bad people in government under control, and developed our county enormously,” says a taxi driver.
Meles had dropped out of medical school to fight in the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), part of the alliance that in 1991 overthrew the communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. Since then, Meles has been praised for his vision of an ‘Ethiopian Renaissance’ and for policies that helped alleviate a great deal of Ethiopia’s poverty. Many fear that progress and stability won’t be sustained without his leadership.
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