Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Ethiopia Elections: Will the West be watching?

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ETHIOPIA

When you work for a news organisation in a country like Ethiopia, people  often tell you “nobody cares” about the stories you report. What they mean, of  course, is that nobody in the West cares. Most of the time, they’re right.

But with Ethiopians about to hold national elections for the first time since a 2005 poll ended with a disputed result, about 200 protestors killed in the  streets by police and soldiers and opposition leaders jailed after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused them of trying to stage a revolution, there’s every reason for the public in the West to take notice.

Their governments have been meddling in Ethiopia for a long time now – but quietly – and with an attitude that has angered some here. Western powers are engaged for sound foreign policy reasons, and although most in the West are unaware of it, for the people of this country it’s a constant coffee house topic.

Ethiopia is often referred to as the “key U.S. ally” in the Horn of Africa – a dodgy neighbourhood by any standards. It’s the West’s friend here because – despite its population being almost 50 percent Muslim – they are overwhelmingly moderate and the government is avowedly secular.

Will Ethiopia’s PM step down?

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They say that the foundation of a good retirement is planning. By that measure, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi should have his rest period well laid out. The rebel-turned-leader has been saying he wants to step aside for almost 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.

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