Tribute to the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

By Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.d) Addis Ababa

The renowned musical legend Mahmood Ahmed has a very good song: it goes like this: “balem Yeminorew Hulum Ekul New way Andu Fetur kandu yeleyay yelem wey…” We all are created equal irrespective of race, color, religion or any other personal backgrounds; however, we also posses different characteristics, different ethical and behavioral manners, norms and personalities. As a result we also differ from one another in those and other characteristics due to our different socio-economic, cultural and environmental upbringings.

Some people are bestowed with enormous gifts of generosity, humanity, commitment and dedication towards the wellbeing and welfare of the society at large. They scarify anything including their precious lives for a good cause, for humanity and for the benefit of their people, their nation and for the love of the society at large. Those are the ones Mahmood is referring to. These precious people work hard and work day in and day out to help others and to create a conducive environment for people above and beyond their own personal benefits, personal wellbeing or personal prestige.  They are tireless and attain unmatched commitment, perseverance and unparalleled strength and dedication to do something in order to bring a better and brighter future that benefits the community and the society at large. They change the lives of their people for the better and create a conducive and stable environment so that people can breathe fresh air, move freely and peacefully wherever and whenever they desire to.

Our world is gifted with few exemplary and inspiring individuals of great caliber and character. Mahatama Ghandhi: Inspirational Indian Spiritual Leader, Nelson Mandela: Former South African president and Human Rights Activist and Mother Teresa: a Catholic Nun that worked for the sick and poor around the world are but few.

Here at home, we also had an inspirational leader. A leader not only with exceptional intellect and high level leadership qualities but also a person who possessed and demonstrated unmatched strength, devotion, commitment and determination and sacrifices towards the betterment not only of his people and his nation but indeed for his Region, his Continent and even beyond his continent as well. That man was our late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Throughout his life, if we can call that a life, Meles worked day in and day out; he demonstrated unwavering depiction and unmatched dedication towards changing the lives of his people for the better. He may be called the architect of modern Ethiopia. His intellectual caliber can be classified as a “world class” and his leadership quality as a world class as well. He made his country and his people very proud representing his nation, his region and even his continent in major international economic and environmental forums: The G-8, G-20 and many other bilateral and multilateral international and global forums.

Meles was an exceptional leader with a positive and perceptive mind. He had a truthful and benevolent heart with a virtuous life deeds, a sincere and strait forward personality, magnetic power and sincerity that we all can drive a lot of energy from.. Further, he was gifted with exceptional skill, intelligence and shining and inspirational personality. Therefore, he was an inspirational leader at home and abroad when he was alive and inspirational leader at home and abroad even after he passed away. His leadership quality has been transcended way across the Region, the Continent and even beyond.  Here are some of his contributions:

  • Meles played crucial role in the 17 years bitter armed struggle to emancipate the Ethiopian people from the yoke of the brutal military dictatorship that culminated in the 1991. This brought fundamental change in bringing peace, stability, respect for human and democratic rights and impressive socio-economic development in the nation that became the foundation of the Ethiopian renaissance.
  • Meles was one of the key architects in the establishment of an indigenous and successful new political system in the country: The Ethiopian Federal Government System that is based on the willful union and equality of all Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of the nation.
  • Meles played a key role in achieving durable peace and stability throughout the country to make the nation an island of tranquility against all odds within the troubled Horn of Africa Region using his vision, competence, unparalleled skill, wisdom, knowledge and intelligence.
  • Meles used scientific, economic and financial policies to successfully navigate the nation’s economic and finance affairs for more than two decades and managed to achieve impressive and miraculous economic growth in short period of time. This has made our nation one of the few fastest growing economies in the world such as China and India. With the double digit growth for more than a decade, Ethiopia has shown impressive development in infrastructure (roads, bridges, railways, hydro dams etc). Same is also true in health, education, telecommunication, water and wind energy, manufacturing, commerce and the service sector.
  • Meles was also a key player in the successful development of democratic institutions such as the human rights commission, the ombudsman etc. although more has to be done in that regard as democracy is a long process and not a onetime occurrence as evidenced in the US. It took 200 years for a leading democracy to come to the point where it currently is and it is not over yet.
  • It was the extremely wise and courageous Meles who accomplished the much talked Nile issue not in talks but in deeds when he laid the foundation of the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in April 2011.
  • Meles was the architect of modern, scientific, reliable and confident Ethiopian Defense Force. This strong Defense Force is always ready to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to deter any potential threats such as terrorism and extremism on top of its significant role in the socio-economic developments of the nation as demonstrated by the Metal and Engineering Corporation (METEK) and the Defense Construction Enterprise.
  • It was Meles who crafted modern Ethiopian Foreign policy that is based upon peaceful coexistence and harmonious relations with other nations centered on equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. Also important on the policy was following economic diplomacy making economic and trade relationship at the center of the diplomacy.
  • Meles was one of the few respected statesman who proved his unwavering dedication, exceptional wisdom, competence and far reaching vision in world diplomatic and economic arenas and forums for the wellbeing of not only his people but also Africa and the world at large.

Meles is admired by world leaders and world intellectuals alike for his shining personality, leadership quality and humanity. Here is what they said about him:

Ban Ki-moon UN Secretary General

“Prime Minister Zenawi will be remembered for his exceptional leadership and advocacy on African issues within and outside the continent, as well as for overseeing his country’s economic growth and development.”

Paul Kagame  President of Ruwanda

“As a person, Meles was a serious man. But he combined this with a very good sense of humor and a sense of good judgment. He was a man of substance and dignity, an irriplacable voice for humanity. He was a very able voice for Africa in leading NEPAD, Climate Change, agriculture and food security, to mention but a few.. The most befitting tribute we can pay him is to consolidate and carry on with the work and the vision he associated with for our continent.

Jacob Zuma President of South Africa

“It is an absolute tragedy for Africa and the people of Ethiopia to mourn such an exceptional leader who contributed as an active role-player in various continental and global initiatives. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had been a strong leader not only for his country but on the African continent, acting as mediator on numerous talks, particularly in the Horn of African Region”.

Ellen Johnson Sir Leaf President of Liberia

“Meles Zenawi was an economic transformer; he was a strong intellectual leader for the continent. In our regional meetings he stood out because of his intellect and his ability to respond and to lead dialogue on matters relating to African development. He will be missed in all our meetings and our entire endeavor. “

David Cameron British Prime minister

Prime Minister Meles was an inspirational spokesman for Africa on global issues and provided leadership and vision on Somalia and Sudan. His personal contribution to Ethiopia’s development, in particular by lifting millions of Ethiopians out of poverty, has set an example for the region. Our thoughts are with his family and with the nation of Ethiopia. He will be greatly missed.”

Hillary Clinton United States Secretary of State

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. I admired the Prime minister’s personal commitment to transforming Ethiopia’s economy and to expanding education and health services”.

Jendayi Frazier Former US Assistant Secretary of State

“Meles was looking for peace, but he also had interest to protect his country…He looks further ahead. He wants to bring his people forward. To achieve a sustainable solution and of course to protect Ethiopia’s interest as a nation…I don’t think Meles ever doubted his decisions”.

Ambassador Susan E. Rice US Permanent representative to the United Nations

Prime Minister Meles leaves behind an indelible legacy of major contribution to Ethiopia, Africa and the world.  His lost will be greatly felt in so many places in so many ways. For, among Prime Minister Meles’s many admirable qualities, above all was his world class mind. The Prime, Minister’s decades-long commitment to Ethiopia’s development and his tireless efforts to liberate his proud people from famine, poverty, and disease stand as testament to his leadership and vision. Equally valuable have been his myriad contributions to the promotion of peace and security across Africa, notably including: his crucial support for the effective implementation of Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended Sudan’s long-running civil war and led to the birth of Africa’s newest nation., South Sudan; his determined fight against terrorism and extremism especially in Somalia; and his energetic efforts to end the conflict in Liberia and Burundi. Throughout, Prime Minister Meles helped to strengthen the African Union. Under his leadership, Ethiopia also made impressive contributions to the United Nation’s. From Climate change to the Millennium development Goals, from conflict prevention and mediation to peace keeping, Prime Minister Meles and Ethiopia gave selflessly to the most important causes the UN championed in Africa and around the world.”

Jose Manuel Barroso European Commission President

“Prime Minister Meles was a Respected African Leader. He demonstrated his strong personal commitment over many years to improving the lives of not just his own but all African peoples, through his work on African Unity, climate change, development and in promoting peace and stability, particularly in the Horn of Africa”.

Barnaba Benjamin South Sudanese Information Minister

It’s a very, very sad day for the people of the Republic of South Sudan and the people of the East of African Region as a whole. He has been a tremendous nationalist leader, a president who had always let peace come to his neighbors”.

Kenneth Kawuda Zambia’s Independence Leader

He’s young man who has contributed a lot to the development of Ethiopia, ever since he took over there has been some stability there; development in the economic field, there’s been development in the social field”.

Meles’s legacy will continue to shine and motivate Ethiopians especially the youth for more national unity, economic progress, prosperity and national pride.  His legacy to the promotion of peace, security, stability, climate change and renewable energy will be an example to Africa in general and the Horn of Africa in particular for many years to come.  His leadership philosophy particularly on pan Africanism and on developmental state will help unite Africans for a better political and economic future.  As a result, Meles will be in the hearts and Saul of Ethiopians and Africans and his legacy will always be remembered.

New York international airport is named after the former American president John F. Kenedy. Washington’s international and national airports are named after other former American president Ronald Reagan, Houston airport is named after Jorge Bush, Michigan airport after Gerard Ford and Little rock Arkansas after Bill and Hilary Clinton. Paris’s international airport is named after France’s former president Charles De Gaulle. Our immediate neighbor Kenya named its international airport after its independent leader and former president Jomo Kenyata. These are just few cases. Is it therefore too much for our Great leader Meles Zenawi  to name Bole international airport as Meles Zenawi international Air port?  After all Bole is simply a name of a locality where the airport is located. And the airport has not yet been given specific name like the ones mentioned. Finally, I wish at this point in time like to strongly and respectfully recommend the Bole international airport to be named after our Great Leader Meles Zenawi. I am sure this idea is shared by many Ethiopians and non Ethiopians alike.

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