(By: Liben Assefa) - Prime Minster Meles Zenawi’s conspicuous absence from major domestic and international functions has been a subject of widespread discussion amid genuine concern of well-wishers and wild self-serving speculations among the less generous in spirit. Certainly, given the huge physical strain he endured during the years of armed struggle and the heavy burden of responsibility that fell on him as a prime minster, Meles had health issue that needed professional attention, which has required his temporary leave of absence from routine official duty.
On reliable information obtained from a source with access to Meles’ medical data and proximity to monitor his response to treatment and rest, one can be assured that the he is regaining his health even faster than has been expected. The expert opinion now is that he should soon be in full physical health to gradually resume his responsibilities as chief executive.
Naturally the public has been perturbed during these few weeks, compounded by delay in official information about the Meles’ whereabouts and physical condition. From those that are privy to decisions of public announcement regarding serious matters of the state, it has been possible to learn that disclosure was deemed to trigger undue alarm than was warranted by Meles’ actual state of health. There is, therefore, strong ground to believe that, had there been cause for serious concern, government official would have felt duty bound to alert the public and provide detail account that the public has the right to know.
The good thing is that Ethiopia has a constitutional system of succession in place, should, God for bid, anything happens to any prime minster in office. Despite rumors with deliberate intention to create havoc, confidence in the stability of the institutions of the state is what explains the nationwide calmness and orderliness of the last three weeks. Including the successful hosting of the AU summit at Addis Ababa where over thirty-five head of states deliberated on vital issues of the continent. This speaks to the maturity of the Ethiopian people who, doubtless rate Meles’ leadership highly, nonetheless, place their trust in the lawful organs of the democratic republic -- the institutional expression of their sovereignty. Clearly, the Ethiopian people are anxious to see their prim minster return to office, but have no illusion that their hard-won political stability and system of democratic government rests on no one individual but on the solid institutions whose longevity far exceeds the lifespan of political parties and elected personalities.
Those, whose political mode of thinking still bears the deep imprints of autocracy, misinterpret every fleeting mishap in this country as the end of EPRDF government. Feudalistic as their cast of mind is, most reckon that the fate of the entire government hinges, as in the days of one-man-rule, on the individual head of state. Hence, confusing their own wishful thinking for a reality, the daring have even gone to the embarrassing extent of setting up an interim government in exile. The response to this charade can only be laughter, particularly to anyone who is familiar with the shadiness of the main characters involved. On a serious note, their theatrics stems from cluelessness about Meles’ own outstanding contribution in building enduring institutional structures of governance designed to outlast the biography of any state officials. One can, therefore, say nothing to these people, except perhaps reiterate the simple truth that there is only one legitimate way to political power in Ethiopia. And that is through a constitutional process. However, illusion about an alternative route aside, up until the next 2015 national election, the EPRDF has constitutional mandate to continue governing the country. In fact, given its vision, there is no question that the front will run for another term, most probably without Meles at the helm. Let there be any misunderstanding that this is due to his own personal decision not to seek or hold any public office after his tenure ends in 2015. At any rate, judging by the country’s political situation, one can say that the EPRDF has a better chance of winning the next election than any of its rivals. Even if, for some unforeseeable reason, it fails to clinch a majority seat, the EPRDF is more likely to remain a formidable political force that has to be reckoned with for many years to come.
The reason is simple. The front has built a powerful political base by the sheer magnitude of its positive accomplishments so far. Indeed it is under its leadership that Ethiopia is where it is at present, free from civil internecine bloodletting, cyclical visitations of drought and famine, and arbitrary autocratic rule. Today Ethiopia is a stable, fast developing and respected country where every individual and nationality enjoys equal rights. Naturally such an impressive turnaround in the life of a nation, fraught with unimaginable underdevelopment, could not have been possible without sound leadership. Needless to say, if one is pressed to cite one individual among the senior EPRDF leadership, it has to be its general secretary. By all estimates, Meles has been the intellectual force behind the impressive changes which most Ethiopians have every reason to feel proud about and look forward to even greater progress. This is not all. Over the years Meles has also earned the respect of all African countries by his untiring campaign to promote the interest of the continent as a whole. In actual fact, throughout the world, the Ethiopian prime minster is perceived as the true voice of Africa who best articulates the debt owed to its emerging states.
Naturally, like any human being, let alone one who is diligent and indefatigable in the execution of his duty as a prime minster, Meles could suffer exhaustion to the point of exposure to health hazard. It is not surprising, then, that millions of Ethiopians today pray that Meles recover his strength and complete his term in office and live a long life thereafter. As it happens, Meles is in a robust recovery and is expected to be at the apex of decision- making sooner than later.