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Ethiopia PM Health Raises Muslim Questions

Published: 09/08/2012 04:18:05 PM GMT
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CAIRO - The mystery about the health of long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is raising questions among the Muslim community in Ethiopia about the future of their country.“We all want a better Ethiopia and our Christia (more)

CAIRO - The mystery about the health of long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is raising questions among the Muslim community in Ethiopia about the future of their country.

“We all want a better Ethiopia and our Christian brothers and sisters also feel the same,” a Muslim student group calling itself “concerned Muslim Ethiopians,” told Bikyamasr website on Thursday, August 9.

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Zenawi, 57, who has been in power since 1991, has been absent from the public eye in the past few weeks.

Speculations have spiraled that the premier is on the death bed, particularly after his absence from the African Summit, which was held in Addis Ababa last month.

However, the Ethiopian government insists that the premier is in good health.

The government has even cracked down on newspapers speculating about the health of the premier.

“The Prime Minister's health is now in much better condition after his treatment” information minister Berekat Simon told the state-run Ethiopian Television.

“He is taking some rest.”

Citing sources in the International Crises Group (ICG), exiled Ethiopian TV broadcaster ESAT said last week that the Ethiopian premier had died, a claim denied by the ICG.

Simon insisted that the media speculations are part of opposition “campaigns of fabrications.”

“Those forces are fabricating speculations about the health of PM Meles to the extent of quoting international organizations like ICG, something the organization denied.”

Better Future

Ethiopian Muslims have voiced hope for a better future for their country in post-Zenawi era.

“We are looking at this current situation with an opportunity to bring together all segments of Ethiopia together in order to build a better country,” the Muslim student group said.

“As Muslims we would like the opportunity to work with Christians and others to help make Ethiopia the country it can be by developing both our culture and politics in a positive way.”

Ethiopian Muslims, who make up about 34 percent of the country's population, have taken to the streets in the past weeks in protest at government interference in their religious affairs.

The Ethiopian premier has won the ire of Muslims after he put the Ahbash in charge of their religious affairs, a move that is in violation of the constitution.

Muslims also accuse the Ahbash of launching an "indoctrination program" in predominantly Muslim areas, forcing people to attend "religious training" camps or risk police interrogation and possible arrest.

Founded by Ethiopian-Lebanese scholar Sheikh Abdullah al-Harari, Ahbash is seen by the West as a "friendly alternative" to Wahabi ideology, which the West sees as extreme and militant.

Muslims say Ahbash imams are being brought over from Lebanon to fill the Majlis and teach Ethiopians that “Wahabis” are non-Muslims.

“We definitely are hopeful that this recent episode concerning Meles [Zenawi] and his health will wake up the country that we are the future of Ethiopia,” a student activist in Addis Ababa told Bikyamasr on condition of anonymity.“This country has been led by a man who continues to oppress us all, Christians, Muslims and others, so it is time we take our own destiny in our hands.”

Reproduced with permission from