With Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi seriously ill, East African leaders need to start worrying about what his impending exit will mean for the region.
Though the Ethiopian government has denied reports that the country’s leader has been admitted to a Belgian hospital, and even that he has gone into a coma, there is little doubt that Zenawi is not well.
Three years shy of completing his fourth term in office, this is not the way many imagined Zenawi — who has towered over the country’s political landscape — would end his years in power.
As Zenawi’s whereabouts and the status of his health remain top secret, inevitably, there is feverish speculation over what happens next in the Horn of Africa nation.
Regionally, Zenawi has been one of the key players in the fight against the Somali militant organisation Al-Shabaab. He also actively participated in resolving the dispute between Sudan and South Sudan, which has seen the two countries fight several brief border wars.
Zenawi has also been one of the movers behind massive development projects like Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Project (LAPSSET).
Many analysts in the region worry about the political situation in a post-Zenawi Ethiopia, and are sceptical that the country can pull off a smooth transition.
Prof Abdillahi Jama, a political science lecturer at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, said the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) and other countries in East Africa need to get involved to ensure a smooth transition for the good of Ethiopia and the region.
“Ethiopia is not just an important country in the greater Horn of Africa but also in the rest of Africa and the world,” said Mr Jama, who is also a member of the Independent Federal Constitutional Commission of Somalia.
Source: African review