Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

With Birtukan gone, smooth sailing for Ethiopia’s Meles

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ETHIOPIA-OPPOSITION/BIRTUKANEthiopia’s opposition UDJ party, completely wiped out at last year’s disputed election, says it is regrouping.

At a recent news conference, it announced it plans to rebuild its depleted ranks with young people, analyse the mistakes of the past and ensure that it’s never again hampered by a lack of leadership.

But that last one is going to be pretty difficult. The absence of Birtukan Mideksa, its charismatic former leader who was freed last October after a near two-year stint in jail, was all too visible to ignore.

After a visit to South Africa earlier this year, party chiefs say she is now on her way to the United States for “psychological treatment.”

Did politics play a role in Gebrselassie’s short-lived retirement?

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haileBy Aaron Maasho

It is not hard to notice Haile Gebrselassie’s huge popularity in Ethiopia. It emanates from pride over his illustrious career that saw him break 27 world records, as much as from who he is when not running.

With his ever-present smile and sarcastic quips, “The Emperor” — as he is affectionately known — has never shied away from charity work, as well as providing hundreds of jobs to impoverished locals in his numerous business ventures.

Ethiopia’s Birtukan free: Why now? What now?

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ETHIOPIA-OPPOSITION/BIRTUKAN

It’s now been 15 days since Ethiopia’s most popular opposition leader, Birtukan Mideksa, was released from prison and she still hasn’t said much at all.

Sure, she was “happy”, “elated” even. Prison was “horrible, really horrible.”

Is Eritrean policy shift just “tactical”?

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ALGERIA

Eritrea’s arms seem to have been folded in a sulk for a long time now. The Red Sea state has, for some, taken on the black sheep role in the Horn of Africa family. But President Isaias Afewerki is looking eager to get off the naughty step.

His opponents say he was put there for good reason. Eritrea became increasingly isolated in the region after a 1998 – 2000 border war with neighbouring – and much bigger – Ethiopia.

Is Ethiopia’s development plan too “ambitious”?

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DAVOS/AFRICA

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi seemed to anticipate this week exactly what a lot people were thinking about his government’s plan to double the poor country’s GDP and wean it off food aid within just five years.

“I think that this is a very ambitious plan,” he said.

“This is indeed an extremely ambitious plan,” a few minutes later.

And, once more for luck, “We have put in place a high-case scenario which is clearly very, very ambitious.”

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.

What now for Ethiopia’s “Aung San Suu Kyi”?

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ethiopiaThe first time I interviewed Birtukan Mideksa I was struck by how careful she was not to say the wrong thing. It was 2007 and we were standing in the garden of a community centre in the part of Addis Ababa where she was raised. She had just been released from prison and the locals — many of whom struggle to feed themselves — had each given about a dollar to throw her the party-cum-political rally we had just attended and to buy her an old Toyota Corolla car to help her back on her feet again.

Such was her care when talking to me that, after less than five minutes, I discreetly switched
off my recorder knowing the interview would never make a story, and continued the conversation only out of politeness and professional interest in Ethiopian politics.

Do Ethiopia’s politicians mean it on democracy?

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On the evening of the 20th of March 1878, Ethiopia’s two great rivals, Emperors Yohannes IV and Menelik II, came face-to-face to thrash out their differences.

As the two men met for the first time, traditional Ethiopian singers are said to have sang “A road that is perilous is far / you have to climb and then descend.”

What can Africa expect from the G8?

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi agreed to sit down with Reuters on Wednesday only hours before leaving for the G8 summit in Italy. He told us he planned to remind the rich leaders he met there that the economic slowdown and global warming are having a disproportionate effect on Africa. And that the world’s poorest continent did nothing to cause them.

The former rebel represented Africa at this year’s G20 summit of rich nations and is arguing the case on behalf of the continent again today and tomorrow. Continental spokesman seems a roll Meles — who has a passionate interest in economics — is comfortable with. But he told us it was only related to his job as Ethiopian Prime Minister and that he has no desire to take on a pan-African job if and when he retires as leader — something he has recently said he has plans to do.

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