Meles Zenawi Dies: Reactions from Africa

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has died at 57.

Jenée Desmond-Harris of is reporting on reactions to the death of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi by dignitaries from other African countries. Zenawi, 57, a former rebel fighter, served as Prime Minister for 21 years. He had been suffering from poor health and reportedly had not been seen in public for two months. His death raises many questions about leadership in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia’s tenuous relationship with Eritrea, maintaining peace between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan in which Zenawi played a major role, and the harsh treatment of journalists in Ethiopia. Desmond-Harris, who is attending the ninth annual Sullivan Summit, a conference being held this week in Equatorial Guinea to create conversations about and solutions for Africa’s future, had the opportunity to discuss Zenawi’s death with various attendees, one of whom is conference delegate and Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria (with accreditation to Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Equatorial Guinea and Ecowas), Al-Hassan Conteh, Ph.D. Desmond-Harris reports that Conteh stated:

“[Zenawi] was someone who took the development of his country very seriously. He had participated in African development and was very active in the African Union. And he was relatively young, trying to do things for his country. So it is a very sad event. We had some indication of this when he didn’t participate in the last African Summit. He’s the second African head of state to pass away in a short time, so this is a very sad moment.”

Desmond-Harris also spoke with Yohannes Assefa, an Ethiopian-American who lives in Ethiopia and manages a legal consulting firm. Assefa shared that there are concerns about the Deputy Prime Minister and the impact on businesses. Desmond-Harris writes, “There’s a lot of concern that wealthy business people are taking their money out of Chexsystems. I’m not sure if it’s true. But the world is rife with all sorts of speculation right now …we just don’t know. It’s quite a transition. We’ll have to wait and see,” says Assefa.

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