Ethiopia: Perspectives on Meles Zenawi’s Possible Resignation

Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi indicated that he would like to resign his post. After eighteen years in power – Meles has led Ethiopia since the Marxist government was overthrown in 1991 – his departure would represent a major transition for the country.

Reactions to the news have been mixed. Reuters’ Africa blog voiced skepticism as to whether Meles would actually resign – apparently he has hinted at such a move for two years now,

but after 18 years at the helm of one of the world’s poorest countries the 54-year-old is still in power and says he is trapped by the wishes of his ruling party. They will discuss his desire to retire at an executive committee meeting next month and a September congress would give him the opportunity to ask the party for his twilight years.

Some analysts say his repeated hope for freedom – with the condition of party acceptance – is a ruse to make Meles appear more democratic than he is, while others say he feels he has taken the country as far as he can and covets a high-profile international position in the United Nations or the African Union.

The problem is that many in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) do not want to see their internationally recognisable leader go and may question his loyalty in an attempt to keep him in the driving seat as Ethiopia heads into an uncertain political and economic landscape ahead of its June 2010 national elections.

Several editorials, assessing the chances that Meles will follow through, compare him to other African leaders. In the East African, Charles Onyango-Obbo classifies African leaders who voice reluctance about ruling into several types: Mandela-style leaders who retire despite having the popularity and legal right to stand again, Yar’Adua style leaders who shun the spotlight, and Mbeki-style leaders who attempt to stay in power but leave peacefully when defeated. Will Meles fall into the first category?

Austin Ejiet notes how few African leaders have relinquished power voluntarily but wonders whether Meles will join the ranks of Senghor, Nyerere and others.

Finally, Daniel Howden draws some other comparisons and wonders whether Meles’ departure would change the ethnic composition of Ethiopia’s government.

For the short term, it looks like Meles will stay. Though he has indicated his desire to resign, he has also expressed his “boredom” with all the speculation about when that will take place.

1 thought on “Ethiopia: Perspectives on Meles Zenawi’s Possible Resignation

  1. Pingback: North Sudan: Bashir to Stand Down in 2015 « Sahel Blog

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