Ethiopian PM’s Health Still in Question

Posted July 19th, 2012 at 4:20 am (UTC-5)
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A founding member of Ethiopia's ruling party is accusing opposition groups and European media of exaggerating the health problems of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

There have been conflicting reports about the condition of the longtime prime minister, who has not been seen in public for two weeks.

In an interview with VOA, Sibhat Nega of Ethiopia's ruling Tigrai People's Liberation Front denied European media reports that Mr. Meles is in critical condition at Saint Luc Hospital in Brussels.

“I can tell you for sure that there is no undesirable eventuality regarding his health. I am 100 percent sure that he's recovering health-wise and he will be back to his official duty in a number of days.”

Nega's statements are consistent with those of government officials, who told VOA on Wednesday that the 57-year-old prime minister is sick, but not gravely ill.

Nega, who is friend of Mr. Meles, says the issue is not of major concern to most Ethiopians. He accused opposition groups of attempting to use his sickness to their advantage.

“It's not a very important issue (among) the people. It is the opposition parties that are trying to exploit this because they are wishful thinkers. Otherwise, in the normal situation, it's not a major issue.”

Ethiopian dissident websites have published unconfirmed reports that the prime minister is suffering from brain cancer.

Nega said the government has been functioning normally during Mr. Meles' absence, insisting that the “system does not depend on one person.”

Although Ethiopia's parliament passed the prime minister's budget on Monday, the government abruptly cancelled a scheduled Wednesday news conference Wednesday afternoon without explanation.

An official with the Ethiopian Embassy in Kenya said Mr. Meles is “a little bit sick” and “exhausted,” but added that the prime minister will be back at work soon.