Author and Professor Abraham Verghese Comments on the Death of Meles Zenawi (Audio)

Photo: Dr. Abraham Verghese, Professor of Medicine

August 21, 2012

The death of Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi has left a dangerous power vacuum in the Horn of Africa nation, Abraham Verghese tells host Marco Werman.

Verghese, author of the novel “Cutting for Stone” went to medical school with the former Ethiopian prime minister, and describes Zenawi’s evolution from idealistic rebel fighter to authoritarian ruler.

Verghese recalls his interview with Zenawi in 1998.

“Our lives had diverged dramatically. Here he was being a guerrilla fighter in the field and wound up being prime minister of the country. And my trajectory had gone another way and I was a professor of medicine in America. And here we were meeting after 20 some years,” Verghese says.

“And I remember thinking whatever I was I was willing to die for, I would be willing to die for my kids and whatever I believe in. But he had really been willing to die for a cause that was so impressive,” he adds.

Verghese says during Zenawi’s early years in power there was a sense that he was “a perfect new leader for the country.” But he adds that the former rebel fighter “hung on and stifled the opposition, snuffed out political criticism and imprisoned journalists.”

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