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Tanzania, Ethiopia: Meles Zenawi ‘Tweets’ from Grave

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Citizen Media, Humor, Politics, Technology

Monday's official confirmation [1]of Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Meles Zenawi's death, sparked reactions among social media users in Tanzania, especially after tweets started appearing from what some thought was Zenawi's official Twitter account.

In all started when Zitto Zuberi Kabwe [2], a Member of Parliament from Tanzania, sent this tweet:

@zittokabwe [3]: My condolences to the people of #Ethiopia following the death of Prime Minister #MelesZenawi Hope for a democratic developmental Abbysinia

Susan Mashibe [4] ‏replied:

@iMashibe [5]: @zittokabwe is this really true this time? Cc @SwahiliStreet

And Swahili Street [6] concluded:

@iMashibe announced on ETV. It's official @zittokabwe

Chambi Chachage [7] tweeted a blog post titled ‘Meles Zenawi's Farewell to Young African Leaders [8]‘ from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on 16 November 2006, which was retweeted by others.

And then suddenly @PMMelesZenawi [9] intervened, apparently ‘tweeting after death’  to Tanzania's Member of Parliament Zitto Kabwe:

@PMMelesZenawi [10]: @zittokabwe please be better than I was. Not fun up here I am preparing 2 pay for some of this http://www.ethiopianreview.net/index/?p=42267

Meles Zenawi ‏@PMMelesZenawi – tweeting after death. Source: Twitter Screen Shot

This tweet to Zitto Kabwe, who has more than 29,000 followers, caused a stir, setting off speculation- was ‏@PMMelesZenawi [9] hacked by opponents?

@zittokabwe [11]: @hmgeleka this account seems not to be genuine of recent @pmmeleszenawi

Zitto Zuberi Kabwe [2] concluded, and continued:

@zittokabwe [12]: @AnnieTANZANIA tweets by @PMMelesZenawi not genuine. Ignore them. Account hacked by his opponents

Omar Ilyas [13] backed it:

@omarilyas [14]: This account is fake from the begining @PMMelesZenawi – a parody type like that one of @Julius_S_Malema @zittokabwe

However, the debate on Meles Zenawi’s legacy continued ranging from both admiration for Meles ability to ‘get the job done’ to the widespread awareness that Meles was not a democrat:

@Htunga [15]: @zittokabwe [2] Who is Meles seriously?I see Ethiopians starving n dying in lorries..I remember the shooting in 2010 too.

@zittokabwe [16]: @Htunga [17] were Tanzanians not starving and dying during Nyerere? But we celebrate him because of his principles. Meles the same’

@zittokabwe [18]: @PMMelesZenawi [9] regardless of his mistakes, #MelesZenawi remains a role model to me. You have freedom to bring back #TheDerg or Isaias

The fake (supposedly hacked) @PMMelesZenawi [9] Twitter account, which managed to set off the debate mentioned above, also raises the question of why many public figures and politicians in Africa haven’t had their Twitter accounts verified.

Reportedly, in many cases Twitter takes too long, or simply never respond to requests for verifying accounts.

Twitter is extremely popular in Tanzania as a tool for exchanging views and debate and also as a platform for breaking news. Twitter, however, can easily be abused as in @PMMelesZenawi case, and can also cause confusion and suspicion with regard to authenticity and reliability of sources.

Other fake, hacked or parody African Twitter profiles at present are:@Hailemdesalegne [19], @Julius_S_Malema [20], @kabwezitto [21], @alfredmutua [22] and @MwaiKibaki [23]

Meles Zenawi was President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995 and later became the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 1995 following the general elections that year.