Ethiopia : Azeb Mesfin ‘refusing to vacate palace’
By ARGAW ASHINE
The powerful widow of former prime minister Meles Zenawi is reportedly stalling on vacating Ethiopia’s national palace for the country’s new leader and his family.
According to government sources, Mrs Azeb Mesfin has ignored instructions to move to a new residence that would also be accorded full security detail.
The government has given Mrs Azeb and her children the option of three residential villas in Addis Ababa but she is said to have refused to even visit any out of her own security concerns.
Government officials recently wrote a letter requesting her to leave the palace for the new prime minister, Mr Hailemariam Desalegn.
The new leader and his family are currently living in a small residential villa in the western suburb of the capital.
Mr Hailemariam was sworn in last month after having served as interim premier since Mr Meles’ death on August 20. An internal struggle over whether to confirm him into office was said to have had the widow as one of the main players.
Due to the delay in transferring the palace, Mr Hailemariam is forced to stay in office late in the night and head back very early in the morning to avoid being inconvenienced by the busy Addis Ababa street that leads from his current home to his office. He is reportedly also avoiding inconveniencing city residents and uses less security detail than his predecessor.
The government has deployed tight security around his current home but wants him to move to the more guarded palace.
Mrs Azeb is one of the top officials and a former rebel fighter under the Tigrian Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), one of the four coalition partners of the powerful ruling party, during the 17-year armed struggle against Mengistu Hailemariam’s Marxist regime.
A mother of three, she secured a parliamentary seat in 2005 and was re-elected in 2010.
She also heads the multi-billion dollar ruling party-owned business conglomerate, EFFORT.