In May the Prime Minister attended the G8 Food Security Symposium in Washington DC, where his speech was interrupted by a journalist-activist demanding "freedom." Some have said that it might have been political mistake for US President Barack Obama to invite the unpopular leader to the symposium, noting that there are a half-million Ethiopians who live in Virginia, an important swing state for the upcoming Presidential election.
Many political leaders face hecklers, but this report seems to substantiate the notion that the Prime Minister's grip on power is slipping fast, and that he is now a de facto puppet of the CIA who has turned over control of his ministries to them, and technocrats of the US State Department. Ethiopia has the largest, most advanced military in Africa, and is a critical asset to US regional interests at the cost of $7-billion annually in aid. With his power-bases all but evaporated and his popularity at home nearly non-existent, Zenawi has maintained his grip on power by purging any viable candidates, particularly from the military, who would be viable candidates to succeed him. This also puts the CIA in the difficult position of not having a backup plan should the dictator become no longer viable whatsoever. Or so the CIA might make it appear anyway.
Rumors range from a stomach ailment, to treatment for cancer in his bloodstream, to a brain tumor. Some have suggested a CIA conspiracy to poison him, in order to remove him efficiently and install a new proxy without much turmoil. Others speculate that if Zenawi dies, the US will lose a critical ally in the region, and even that a new civil-war in Ethiopia might ensue.
With so much chaos in neighboring Egypt and Libya, it is hard to imagine that if Zenawi were to fall from power now, there would not be tumultuous repercussions for the region.