The absence of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi from public scene for over a month triggered a number of speculations about his health.
Though the conjectures about the PM’s health problem included a brain tumor, blood cancer and stomach ulcer, the Office of the Government Communication Affairs (OGCA) dismissed them all saying it is a detractor’s speculation.
The OGCA says the PM’s health is very good and stable despite reports that he is “critically ill and his life is in danger”. “It is not brain cancer. It is not whatever the detractors say. I will not delve into the details. The details have to be left between him and his doctors alone. I can only assure you that it is an object of baseless speculation,” said Bereket Simon, Minister of Government Communication Affairs while responding to a query about the specifics of the PM health status last Thursday.
The 57 year old leader, Meles Zenawi’s last public appearance was at the G20 summit held in Mexico last June. He was observed looking thin and pale. His inability to show up at the African Union Summit and the parliamentary budget approval debate confirmed to the public that he was not in good health before the OGCA’s official statement. Many argued that, had there not been a program overlap of the two important events which required his presence, his health condition may have remained somewhat surreptitious.
Dismissing queries as to who is currently acting in the shoes of the PM? Or who will replace him in the event of long absence? Bereket said that we need to understand how the EPRDF party functions and assured that the PM is still in charge.
“He is in charge. There is no change in that respect. The only thing I can say is that although he is in charge, he has to take some rest; a week, 10 days, five days or whatever. Leave of absence doesn’t mean there is nobody in charge. He will be back in office shortly.”
The Minister argued that the PM health problem is a result of exhaustion that arises from a stressful workload the PM has undergone for the past several decades.
“The Prime Minister, as we all know him, is a person with herculean ability. Just to say few things about him; he has been shouldering so much work; he has been teaching, writing, organizing, putting up plans and has undertaken a lot of international activities as well. That is why the doctors have advised him to stay away from his day to day activity for a few days… He knows that this is a very stressful job but he also knows that he has to shoulder it because he has a vision. As a leader who has a big vision for Ethiopia, he is quite accustomed to taking stressful jobs,” the Minister reiterated.
Asked if the PM might resign following the advice of the physicians, the government spokesperson was firm.
“The Issue of stepping down has not been raised. I think that goes beyond the mandate of the medical doctors. What they can do in this respect is to advise him to get some rest. As to the power structure of the country, I don’t think they will apply an elastic prescription that goes beyond their mandate. I don’t think that is the case,” said Bereket.
Though Capital sources in Brussels confirmed that the PM is receiving medication at Saint Luc University Hospital on Friday, July 20, 2012, the hospitals press officers refused to answer Capital’s query. The hospital is a centre known for the treatment of blood or hematological cancers.