22 August 2012, 15:10

Ethiopian prime minister may have died in Brussels a month ago

Ethiopian prime minister may have died in Brussels a month ago

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi may have died over a month ago, says Mesfin Aman - a senior member of the opposition party and Ethiopian dissident who fled his country after the 2005 elections. In an exclusive interview to The Voice of Russia, Mr. Aman went into further detail concerning Zenawi’s alleged death. The Ethiopian embassy in Moscow has declined to comment on the matter.

Reports from the international media say Zenawi passed away in a hospital in Brussels right before midnight on August 20. However, Michela Wrong – a British journalist and author who spent six years as a foreign correspondent covering events across the African continent for Reuters, the BBC, and the Financial Times – stated that Ethiopian media has been reporting about his death for weeks now. 

Mesfin Aman says this point of view emerged due to the fact Meles Zenawi disappeared in June and hasn’t been seen in public since and the government may have wanted to hide this information to avoid panic and power struggle among its members.. 

“He disappeared from the public eye for more than 70 days and since then he was admitted to hospital. They officially confirmed his death today [on August 20] but according to the sources in Brussels he passed away a month ago and the government tried to vehemently denied and hide the information from the public.This is their usual mode of operation.” 

This information is also confirmed by Michela Wrong, who spoke of reports about Meles Zenawi’s death that have been surfacing for weeks prior to his death. Though the news itself came as no surprise, Wrong stated, it is significant that it happened as he had disappeared and no one has seen him since June. The office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia did not give any comment on the situation to the Voice of Russia. 

Voice of Russia: Mr. Aman, do you know the cause of death? 

Mesfin Aman: Officially we didn’t hear any news, but there is a rumor about cancer that he had; a brain tumor or throat cancer. 

VOR: And that caused the death a month ago? 

MA: Yes, indeed. Many independent Ethiopian opposition news sources were releasing the news about his death a month ago. The officials were saying it was a lie but now after a month they are saying that it is true. 

VOR: Why were they holding back the news? 

MA: The reason is political power, to buy time. Everything is concentrated around Meles Zenawi and his party and his personality cult.. He didn’t prepare anyone to take his position and take charge of the government. So there was and still is a fear of a power vacuum and power struggle among the top party officials. They were hiding the news to arrange and control things among themselves. 

VOR: Is there definite candidate for his position at the moment? 

MA: There is no one, but at this moment according to the rank and the priority, the deputy prime minister will be in charge of the PM’s position. And I think in the coming months the governing and the ruling party will call a congress and the chairman of the party might become the official prime minister of the country. But until then the deputy prime minister will be in charge of office. 

VOR: Do you think there will be a power struggle between different candidates? 

MA: Of course. According to my sources it already started within the top apparatus of the ruling party. Especially in The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front that led Meles to become prime minister, so the power struggle has already started. I assume in the coming days or moths we will hear more news about this power struggle within the leadership.

VOR: What would be the worst outcome following his death? 

MA: The worst thing would be if the power struggle will continue the army would be divided into different factional groups weaken the government. But if the leadership acts responsibly the danger will overcame. Especially if they call for national dialogue with the opposition and settle things for better.  

After fleeing Ethiopia Mr. Aman filed for asylum in Netherlands, as he is sentenced to death in his own country. He was found guilty of disrespect for the Ethiopian constitution and, along with four other people, for attempting a coup. 

Mr. Aman noted said: “I hope his departure will change things for better but we can’t be certain of that because things are complicated in that part of the world due to lack of democracy and the absence of the rule of law. Things would lead to unwanted circumstances but I hope people who are in government will take a cautious measure to sort-out things and create a better situation in the country.” 

Political refugee Mesfin Aman - CSR officer at a non-profit organization Pifworld in Netherlands. Former employee of the Voice Of Africa Media Foundation. As a student Mr Aman was involved in the founding of Ginbot 7 - a political opposition party. In 2001, he spent several months in solitary confinement after he took part in a Addis Ababa University student protest against the regime of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi. In the aftermath of the elections in 2005, he again spent several weeks in solitary confinement, after which he was released on bail. He escaped to Kenya, and then to the Netherlands.

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