[Update – 5] Where is PM Meles Zenawi? 13 days and counting

Despite public concerns for his safety, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi went to Cairo, on Friday, Sept. 16 evening. After a busy day with the Egyptian officials and media, he was alive and kicking, while leaving the Egyptian capital the next evening.

Egypt’s media showed the Premier boarding a plane in Cairo international airport – a plane that would bring him back home after 3:30 hours flight. Or, so we thought.

However, there was no news of his arrival on the Ethiopian national television.

Well, it is probable, the Premier might have entered town quietly, without bothering his Ministers and media officers to receive him at the airport. Of course, why would he upset them, of all the days, on  a Saturday mid-night. And, that is not unprecedented, as he sometimes quietly enter town from his stay abroad.

The problem is that he was not seen in public since – almost, two weeks.

Two weeks of absence from media is not long, per se. After all, Meles Zenawi is not a man about town, as frm US Amb. Yamamoto observed.

Plus, the PM doesn’t have regular weekly media appearance, unlike Barak Obama and Hugo Chavez to mention few. In fact, it is not unprecedented for him to say off the TV for a month or so.Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

But the past two weeks were not uneventful.

There was the National Flag day, which was celebrated last year with in his presence.

There was the 66th UN General Assembly in New york, where his opposition had been eagerly waiting to demonstrate against him. To their dismay, his deputy and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hailemariam Desalgne, addressed the assembly.

There was also a two-days  conference of the Association of Upper Houses of Parliaments in Africa and the Arab World (ASSECAA) held last weekend in Addis. It was attended by Kassa Tekleberhan, Speaker of the House of Federation, and Berhane Gebrekristos, State Minister of Foreign Affairs. Of course, Meles Zenawi is not supposed to attend, though he would normally meet a few of the guests in his office. Apparently, he didn’t.

The list goes on.


The Egyptians are capable of anything, at least Ethiopians think so. Yet, we can rule out plane accidents, as he traveled by a plane, leased from the Ethiopian Airlines, that would be watched around the clock by his security team.

Perhaps, we can rule out any life-threatening situation and also a protracted high-profile meeting of the ruling party, EPRDF.

Because, in neither cases would his heir apparent, Dep. PM and EPRDF v/Chairperson, Hailemariam Desalegne would leave town to attend to an inconsequential talk shop, known as the UN General Assembly debate. In fact, the Army Chief of Staff, Samora Yenus, was also in Khartoum, Sudan, the other week.

Not to forget, had there been a meeting of the EPRDF Council or Executive Committee, the party would have issued a press release. And, both would be attended by Hailemariam Desalegne and Kassa Tekleberhan, as representatives of a Southerner party(SEPDM) and an Amhara party(ANDM), respectively, which are two of the four regional parties that make up the EPRDF.

Well, he could be working in his office for all we know. Toiling for a formula that would ease the inflation, without slowing infrastructure spending frenzy. Perhaps, he is working on his Doctorial dissertation.

Thus, the speculation on his whereabouts could be fairly put away.

Missed in Nairobi

Alas, he stood up the Kenyans yesterday.

The Kenyans were expecting  Meles Zenawi at a major conference on infrastructure development. That is: the joint Infrastructure Investment Conference of the East Africa Community (EAC),  the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Horn of African grouping – IGAD.

Kenya’s officials told the media Meles Zenawi would be present at the opening of the conference – that is, Wednesday.

But the Ethiopian Premier was nowhere to be seen even on Thursday, when the Conference was concluded issuing a Communiqué.

Thus, the question persists: Where is Meles Zenawi?



Eighteen hours after I published this article, the national television announced there will be an EPRDF Council meeting on Saturday.

The news, aired at 8:00 PM (local time), stated that:

The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) Council will hold its regular meeting in Addis Ababa on Saturday, Secretariat of the EPRDF Council has announced.

According to a statement the Secretariat issued on Friday, the meeting will evaluate the implementation of the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan over the past one year.

The statement said the Council will also review activities carried out in rural development including crop production, natural resource conservation, animal husbandry, irrigation development and investment.

With regard to urban development, the Council will assess activities undertaken in micro and small-scale enterprises development, urban land administration and housing, the statement said.

The Council will also assess activities carried out and results gained in infrastructure, safe water and sanitation, energy, revenue and tax administration sectors as well as the progress of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project.

Activities carried out in the areas of education quality, healthcare, good governance, media and public relations as well as peace and security will also be evaluated, the statement said.

After evaluating activities undertaken in various sectors, the Council is expected to set focus areas for the 2004 EC.


The EPRDF Council has 180 members and it is usually chaired by its Chairperson Meles Zenawi.

You can find the list of EPRDF Council members here (link).



On Saturday, Egypt State Information Service reported the following:

Sharaf sends message to Ethiopian PM

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi received Friday 30/09/2011 Egypt’s new Ambassador in Addis Ababa Mohamed Fathi Edriss, who conveyed to him a message from Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on means of boosting bilateral relations.

Sharaf’s message focused on ways to activate positive relations between the two countries, Edriss said.

The meeting aimed to give momentum to bilateral relations that was initiated by Zenawi’s recent Cairo visit and before that Sharaf’s visit to Addis Ababa, Edriss said.

However, the Ethiopian national television didn’t mention the said meeting between the PM and the Ambassador.



On Sunday evening 8 pm (local time), the Ethiopian television reported that EPRDF Council’s meeting was concluded on Saturday.

Meles Zenawi was briefly seen chairing the meeting.

You can read the text news regarding the decisions of EPRDF Council here.


On Wednesday, October 05, morning(local time) –

Meles Zenawi inaugurated the Ethio-Djibouti electric power transmission line, in the presence of President of the Republic of Djibouti, Ismael Omar Guelleh in Djibouti, higher government officials of the two countries as well as representative of the African Development Bank(AfDB).

The 283km long and 230-kV transmission line, finalized with $1.5 Bln cost, was partly financed by AfDB.

The transmission line enables Ethiopian to export 35-megawatt of electricity to Djibouti for some $1.5 million payment every a month.

PM Meles Zenawi made a speech, at the inaugural ceremony, highlighting the two countries’ plans to build two additional railway lines and fiber optic line.

(The Ethiopian Television reported the news at noon)


Daniel Berhane

more recommended stories