Ethiopia’s PM Meles ‘on Sick Leave’

Posted July 19th, 2012 at 10:00 am (UTC-5)
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The Ethiopian government says Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been prescribed a “sick leave” by his doctor, and will return to work when he has recuperated.

A statement released in Addis Ababa Thursday did not say what is ailing Mr. Meles, where he is, or when he might return.

European media reports have said the Ethiopian leader is in critical condition at Saint Luc Hospital in Brussels.

In an interview with VOA, Sibhat Nega of Ethiopia's ruling Tigray People's Liberation Front said Mr. Meles is in better shape than reported.

“I can tell you for sure that there is no undesirable eventuality regarding his health,” he said. “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 a 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 news conference Wednesday afternoon without explanation.