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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.
Some analysts say his repeated hope for freedom – with the condition of party acceptance – is a ruse to make Meles appear more democratic than he is, while others say he feels he has taken the country as far as he can and covets a high-profile international position in the United Nations or the African Union.
The problem is that many in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) do not want to see their internationally recognisable leader go and may question his loyalty in an attempt to keep him in the driving seat as Ethiopia heads into an uncertain political and economic landscape ahead of its June 2010 national elections.
A plot is defined as “a plan made in secret”, but even by the usual shadowy nature of such matters around Africa, the recent conspiracy to overthrow the Ethiopian government has been hard to see clearly.
The story broke two weeks ago when the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said 40 men had been arrested for planning a coup after police found guns, bombs and “written strategies” at their homes. But a few days later the government communication office was asking journalists not to use the word coup anymore. The “desperados”, they said, had planned to “overthrow” the government by using assassinations and bombings to create enough chaos to get supporters on the streets to topple the government.