In the capital, the issue that has been on everyone’s lips now for weeks, even if covertly, is growing – despite the fact that there has been no official confirmation regarding Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s health and supposed illness. Nevertheless, after days full of questions and doubts, diplomatic sources have now reportedly acknowledged that the Addis Abeba strongman was urgently hospitalized yesterday in a Brussels hospital following a sudden worsening of his health.
“Rumors were fuelled by television broadcasting of his intervention at the G-20 summit in Mexico,” a missionary source tells MISNA, “in which he appeared to be tired and thinner. Also his absences at the closing ceremony of the annual parliament season and at the African Union summit fuelled these rumors”.
It was the first absence from this assembly since he came to power in 1991.
Two days ago the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Hailemariam Desalegne confirmed Zenawi’s “minor illness”, without talking about its nature.
Later, however, government spokesperson Simon Bereket denied such information, which he said was “disseminated with the purpose of destabilizing the country”.
From Ethiopia, in which media faces widespread controls and censorship, rumors spread to foreign-based opposition websites and to social networks.
The suspicions of theose who think Zenawi is severely ill and in an urgent need of medical treatment alternate with the thoughts of people who consider rumors as an “intentional chaos” from the ruling regime to distract from recent demonstrations and an increasingly tense political and social atmosphere.
In power for more than 20 years now, Zenawi – who is 57 – is from the Tigray region, where the armed rebellion against the former dictator, Colonel Mengistu Hailé Mariam, began.