|Prime Minister of Ethiopia|
23 August 1995 – 20 August 2012
|Preceded by||Tamirat Layne|
|Succeeded by||Hailemariam Desalegn|
|Interim President of Ethiopia|
28 May 1991 – 22 August 1995
|Prime Minister||Tesfaye Dinka|
|Preceded by||Tesfaye Gebre Kidan (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Negasso Gidada|
|Member of the|
House of People's Representatives
19 May 1995 – 20 August 2012
Legesse Zenawi Asres
9 May 1955
Adwa, Tigray Province, Ethiopian Empire
|Died||20 August 2012 (aged 57)|
|Political party||Tigray People's Liberation Front|
|Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front|
Marxist–Leninist League of Tigray
|Allegiance||Tigray People's Liberation Front|
|Battles/wars||Ethiopian Civil War|
Meles Zenawi Asres (Tigrinya and Amharic: መለስ ዜናዊ ኣስረስ; pronounced [mɛllɛs zenawi asrɛs] listen (help·info), born Legesse Zenawi Asres; 9 May 1955 – 20 August 2012) was an Ethiopian soldier and politician who served as President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995 and then Prime Minister of Ethiopia from 1995 until his death in 2012.
Born in Adwa to an Ethiopian father and an Eritrean mother, Meles became actively involved in politics after changing his original first name from Legesse to Meles, adopted following the execution of fellow university student Meles Takele by the Derg government in 1975. Shortly that year, he left Haile Selassie I University to join the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and fight against the Derg (the Mengistu Haile Mariam-led military dictatorship in Ethiopia). In 1989, he became the chairman of the TPLF, and the head of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) after its formation in 1988.
After leading the EPRDF to victory in the Ethiopian Civil War, he served as president of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995, then as the 2nd prime minister of Ethiopia from 1995 to his death in 2012. Meles Zenawi's administration brought Ethiopia to ethnic federalism; he expressed his populist view that ethnic groups should share their own languages, culture and lands. An Eritrean referendum was held during his four-year presidency, which resulted in Eritrean secession from Ethiopia in 1993, but the two countries entered into a war owing to the territorial dispute from 1998 to 2000, during which 98,217 people were killed. In the 2005 general election, Meles's party EPRDF won and he remained as prime minister, while opposition parties strongly complained that the election was "stolen" and unfair. Shortly during and after the election, disastrous riots and protests sparked across Addis Ababa, in which 193 people were killed by police brutality.
During his tenure, Ethiopia became one of Africa's fastest-growing economies. Meles undertook major reforms to the country, including land reforms attempt to reduce serious droughts, school expansions, and agricultural interests. He died in Brussels on 20 August 2012 from an undisclosed illness. Some analysts claim that he died from catecholamine. "Zenawism" refers to his principles and policies of ethnic federalism, especially those the TPLF advocated, and is the subject of academic study.
Meles was born in Adwa in northern Ethiopia, to Zenawi Asres, a Tigrayan from Adwa and Alemash Ghebreluel, an Eritrean from Adi Quala. He was the third of six children. His first name at birth was Legesse (thus Legesse Zenawi, Ge'ez: ለገሰ ዜናዊ legesse zēnāwī). He eventually became better known by his nom de guerre Meles, which he adopted in honor of university student and fellow Tigrayan Meles Tekle who was executed by the Derg government in 1975. He received primary education at Queen of Sheba Junior High School in Adwa. Because he started school at age 11 or 12 it took him 5 years to complete the regular 8-year program as he was able to skip grades. He then joined the prestigious General Wingate High school in Addis Ababa on full scholarship and completed high school in 1972. Upon graduating with honors from General Wingate, he was awarded the Haile Selassie I Prize, a selective award given only to the most outstanding students. In 1975, Meles left the university to join the Tigray People's Liberation Front.
Meles Zenawi was an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian.
Meles was first with the Tigrayan National Organization (TNO), the forerunner of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Aregawi Berhe, a former member of the TPLF, notes that historians John Young and Jenny Hammond "vaguely indicated" Meles as a founder of the TPLF in their books. Aregawi insists that both he and Sebhat Nega joined the Front "months" after it was founded. While a member of the TPLF, Meles established the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT).
The TPLF was one of the armed groups struggling against the Derg, the junta which led Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. Meles was elected member of the leadership committee in 1979 and chairman of the executive committee of TPLF in 1983. He was the chairperson of both the TPLF and the EPRDF. After the EPRDF assumed power at the end of the Ethiopian Civil War in 1991. He was president of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia during which he paved the way for Eritrea to secede from the country.
Meles stated that EPRDF's victory was a triumph for the thousands of TPLF-fighters who were killed, for the millions of Ethiopians who were victims of the country's biggest famine during the Derg regime, when some estimates put up to 1.5 million deaths of Ethiopians from famine and the Red Terror. Accordingly, he maintained that the big support it received from peasants and rural areas helped EPRDF maintain peace and stability. Foreign support was diverse; the Arab League, as well as Western nations, supported the EPRDF rebels against the communist Soviet-supported government (although the TPLF was at the time Marxist) at the height of the Cold War.
"What the implications of this will be in terms of relations between Ethiopia and the European Union, we will have to wait and see but I don't think you will be surprised if Ethiopia were to insist that it should not be patronised."
The United States facilitated peace talks between different rebel groups including EPRDF and the Derg to bring an end to the civil war which lasted for nearly 17 years and reach some kind of political settlement in 1991. The talks did not bear any fruit as EPRDF's force were moving to the capital and Mengistu fled the country. The United States agreed to support the EPRDF which would have, nevertheless, seized power without anyone's support. Many angry demonstrators in Addis Ababa reacted to this by protesting against Herman Cohen, the U.S. State Department's chief of African affairs who attended a conference that demonstrators viewed as legitimizing the EPRDF.
In July 1991, the Convention of Nationalities was held. It was the first Ethiopian multinational convention where delegates of various nations and organizations were given fair and equal representation and observed by various international organizations including the United Nations, Organization for African Unity, European Economic Community, and the United States and the United Kingdom.
Although Meles and his administration claimed they preferred a united but federal state that included the Eritrean state, since Meles' TPLF fought together with EPLF, Meles did not have a choice but to leave the decision to Eritrean leadership in the hope that the independence referendum would vote against secession, according to Time magazine's 1991 analysis. The Eritreans were given the choice for independence or to stay in the union. They voted for independence on 24 May 1993, Isaias Afewerki became the leader of Eritrea. Meles was in Asmara, Eritrea as the keynote speaker. Many[who?] in the Meles administration, as well as opposition parties, were angry over the decision to grant Eritrea its independence.
Despite working together against the Derg regime, Meles and Isaias positive relationship turned sour after Meles succumbed to U.S. pressure to hold an election within a year, but Afewerki abandoned his original promise to create a transitional government in the early 1990s. The Eritrean-Ethiopian War began in May 1998 following the Eritrean troops invasion of Badme and parts of Sheraro woredas. Following the invasion Ethiopia demanded that the Eritrean troops leave the invaded areas completely. However, the Eritrean government refused to pull out. Then the Ethiopians responded with huge counter - offensive measures which subsequently lead to the capture of the disputed Badme area and most parts of western Eritrea, and Ethiopian President Negaso Gidada gave a victory speech and a peace treaty was signed a few weeks later. According to the peace treaty Ethiopia then pulled out of the Eritrean Territory. Though Ethiopian troops controlled Badme, after the Algiers Agreement (2000) ruled that Badme belonged to Eritrea, Ethiopia continued to maintain a presence of its soldiers in the town.
Main article: Premiership of Meles Zenawi
A new constitution was approved in 1994, providing for a parliamentary system. The president served as ceremonial head of state, with the prime minister as head of government and chief executive. The EPRDF handily won the 1995 elections, and Meles was sworn in as prime minister when the new Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was formally inaugurated on 21 August 1995.
Meles was appointed as Prime Minister after the 1995 general election, and was chairman of the Tigray People's Liberation Front. Under his government, Meles encouraged privatization of government companies, farms, lands, and investments which reversed the previous Derg communist rule.
Main article: Ethnic discrimination in Ethiopia
See also: Ethnic federalism § Ethiopia
Meles' government implemented ethnic based federalism as a response to old imperial rule of Amhara people. Meanwhile, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), while drafting the constitution counted Amharas and Tigrayans dominated the imperial rule likewise. Reasons posited the aim of ethnic federalism empowers all ethnic groups in Ethiopia to share their cultures and languages, and ethnic-based liberation front preferred to join the July Convention of Nationalities in 1991. Critic always commented this system brings to divisions, which on other hands, Meles argues it gives several interests, equitable distribution and wealth to them. He added that the system provides recourse to fight poverty, peasants must choice their own decisions in their own languages. Meles views emphasized an economic growth claiming "if you think it is threat, it will be; if you think it a benefit, then it will be. Ethnicity will become less an issue as the economy grows and Ethiopia's process of assimilation does its job."
His government criticized for decentralizing of language system. Critics concerned that this policy would fracture Ethiopian national identity. Regions of Ethiopia have their official state language. For example, Afaan Oromo is the official language of Oromia Region, Afar for Afar Region, Harari for Harari Region. Amharic is official working language to Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambela, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region.
Meles' government allowed freedom of religion formally in 1991. Previous issues including Orthodox Church dominance prior 1974, seizure of church by the Derg regime, state sponsored persecution against non-Orthodox Christians, second-class citizenship accorded to Ethiopian Muslims, and land owning issues by non-Orthodox population almost resolved. However, most analysis stated that there was sporadic clashes since equality and rights granted by national or new religions.
Prior to federalism, both the Haile Selassie and Derg government limited media rights. During Meles' administration, however, politically inflicted media organization became decelerated, while entertainment surging in opposite. It was believed[clarification needed] that FM radio stations were licensed under regional governments, community organizations and private companies. The government licensed seven regional state television transmission agencies, but there are not private broadcasters in the country.
Meles government advocated "pro-poor" domestic policy. According to World Bank's East African leadership, the Ethiopian government ranked first to share GDP for "pro-poor" sectors. It also created regional development to Amhara Development Association, Tigray Development Association, Oromia Development Association and many others. Meles government worked the country to economically grow steadily since he took an office. During the last seven years, Ethiopia's GDP growth had shown 9 percent of rate. The country also topped to the category "policies of social inclusion and equity" in domain of "economic management", while Ethiopia was successful scoring "structural policies" and "public sector management and institutions". Gross primary enrollment rate which was initially poor, went 93% in 2004 from 72% in 1990, raising literacy rate from 50% in 1997 to 65% in 2002. Opposition parties contested those growth rate, stating double-digit inflation comes from a result of ruling party government economic failure. Ethiopia became the fastest growing countries in Africa.
In 2000 general election, Meles reelected as prime minister, with opposition parties like United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) shared parliament seats. According to Ethiopian Human Rights Council, local UN staff, diplomatic missions, political parties, domestic non-governmental organizations, both general and regional elections were free and fair in most areas. However, there was misconduct in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, particularly in the Hadiya Zone.
Ethiopia has expanded schools partially since 1990 without regional coverage. Meles rearranged school expanding scheme with million of Ethiopian birr; while his policy focussing around agricultural sector, the jobs in urban areas became declined, resulting in opposition from students and urban residents as well. In 1991, 27% of Ethiopian children attended school. The growth enrollment doubled to 77% and reached 85% in November 2006. As of 2005, there were 13,500 elementary schools and 550 secondary schools. Secondary schools were aided by satellite program called "School-Net".
Under his leadership, many universities and colleges unprecedentedly expanded and constructed. Those higher institutions include Adama University, Nazareth Technical College, Jimma University, Mekelle University, and newly built Debub University. Other are Awassa College and Bahir Dar University. It also implemented various departments and faculties. and the new Wolaita Soddo University started taking in students in February 2007.
Ethiopia frequently suffered from droughts throughout its history. Under his office, major droughts occurred in 1999/2000, 2002/2003 and 2009/2010.
Meles government encouraged collectivist land reforms and redistribution at local levels. However, the constitution deemed has shortcomings. Article 40, section 3 states that, "The right to own rural and urban land as well as natural resources belongs to only to the state and the people." The farmers use uncertain transfer rights whilst using lands. Since 2008, the government announced "empty" land leasing to foreign investors. This outlook considered by some holders "land grabbing" with a risk of losing their plots.
The EPRDF once convinced that land should not be privatized, farmers would pay their land after drought. His government believed privatization should be implemented potentially, but not presently.
The EPRDF faced an unprecedented challenge from opposition groups like the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), UEDF, and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement in the 2005 election. It was one of the most controversial elections in Ethiopian history, and the opposition accused the EPRDF of electoral fraud. Demonstrations broke out in Addis Ababa and protesters were massacred by government forces—763 people were killed and over 10,000 were imprisoned.
In spite of the 2005 Ethiopian general election violence, the Administrator of USAID recognized an EPRDF electoral victory and accused European Union election observers who were critical of the outcome of doing a "bad job" and of "favoring opposition groups."
The TPLF administration strongly regards gender equality; Meles' wife and First Lady Azeb Mesfin was forefront advocator in women rights. Meles government encouraged all-encompassing women participations, organized forums to discuss backward issues in national television. Discussions include concerning tangential issues, HIV transmission, premature marriage, job opportunities and more. Various organizations emerged for example the Ethiopian Women's Lawyers Association (EWLA), Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-tope and Network of Ethiopian Women's Associations.
On 18 May 2012, Meles attended to Food Security 2012 G8 Summit in Washington D.C to discuss agricultural transformation in Africa to deal with unification of farmers and private sectors. Abebe Gelaw, a Washington-based Ethiopian journalist disrupted the conference by yelling at the podium against Meles with words:
Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Free Eskinder Nega! Free political prisoners! You are a dictator. You are committing crimes against humanity. Food is nothing without freedom! Meles has committed crimes against humanity! We need freedom! Freedom! Freedom!
Meles was immediately stunned and dropped his head for two minutes. Abebe was escorted by guards and detained. Abebe noted in his latest speech, "I voiced the anger, frustration and aspiration of the Ethiopian people in front of world leaders...Some are calling me a hero, others says I deserve honours. While I appreciate all the outpour of support, this is not about me. It is not about my heroism but the truth that must be told with utmost clarity. It is about our country, people, and the freedom and dignity we deserve."
Main article: Foreign policy of the Meles Zenawi administration
Meles moved to have Ethiopia gain a larger share of the Nile River water. Part of this entailed using Ethiopia's hydropower prospects as leverage in exporting power to Egypt, amongst others. He had also aided the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement prior to independence of South Sudan as the rebels fought the government in Khartoum. Since the War on Terrorism, Meles sought to consolidate hegemony of Ethiopia in East Africa, including his mediation efforts with Sudan and South Sudan, as well as stabilizing Somalia towards the end of the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government. Though he had controversially sent troops to fight against the Islamic Courts Union, he had been praised for working towards a stable situation along with the African Union since 2009.
Meles Zenawi and President of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki were on good terms, as Eritrean forces helped TPLF overthrow the Derg. As the TPLF came to power in Ethiopia, it had occurred simultaneously with the EPLF's rise to power in Eritrea. After the 30 years of war between the two countries, the people of both countries enjoyed the fruit of peace, but not for long. In 1998, the Ethiopian government waged war with Eritrea on basis of border conflicts. The war comes to end in 2000. During the war, between 70,000 and 98,217 people were killed and 650,000 displaced. The Algiers Agreement was a peace agreement between the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia signed on 12 December 2000, at Algiers, Algeria, which was supposed to be final and binding. Nevertheless, Meles Zenawi refused to pull back Ethiopian forces for Eritrean territory, leading to a no-war-no-peace situation in the region. Ethiopian forces reside in the sovereign lands of Eritrea, around the town Badme despite the EEBC Border ruling granting Badme to Eritrea. Eritreans feel Meles Zenawi and the TPLF have betrayed them and he is responsible for the loss of lives, relationships, and mutually benefiting opportunities of the two countries.
Meles declared war on the ICU unprovoked in order to curry favor with the West. In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union assumed control of much of the southern part of Somalia and promptly imposed Shari'a law. The Transitional Federal Government sought to reestablish its authority, and, with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, African Union peacekeepers and air support by the United States, managed to drive out the rival ICU. On 8 January 2007, as the Battle of Ras Kamboni raged, TFG President and founder Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a former colonel in the Somali Army, entered Mogadishu for the first time since being elected to office. The Somali government then relocated to Villa Somalia in the capital from its interim location in Baidoa. This marked the first time since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 that the federal government controlled most of the country.
In October 2011, a coordinated multinational operation began against Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, with the Ethiopian military eventually joining the mission the following month. According to Ramtane Lamamra, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, the additional Ethiopian and AU troop reinforcements are expected to help the Somali authorities gradually expand their territorial control.
Meles played an important role in developing the African Union's position on climate change since 2009 and was a 'friend of the Chair' at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).[original research?]
On 31 August 2009, Meles was appointed Chair of the African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC). The group had been established following the 4 February 2009 decision at the 12th AU Assembly of Heads of States to build a common Africa position on climate change in preparations for COP15.
Prior to Meles' appointment, but in light of the AU's decision and the Algiers Declaration on the African Common Platform to Copenhagen, on 19 May 2009 the Africa Group made a submission to the UNFCCC that included demands for US$67 billion per year in finance for adaptation funding and US$200 billion per year for mitigation and set targets in terms of reductions of emissions by developed countries not by reference to temperature.
On 3 September 2009, Meles made a speech to the Africa Partnership Forum, where he said:
We will never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation and assistance are promised to us… While we will reason with everyone to achieve our objective, we will not rubber-stamp an agreement by the powers that be as the best we could get for the moment. We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position. If needs be we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent.
Main article: Death and state funeral of Meles Zenawi
In July 2012, questions arose concerning Meles' health when he did not attend African Union summit meetings in Addis Ababa. Opposition groups[which?] claimed that Meles may have already died on 16 July while undergoing treatment in Belgium; however, Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn attributed Meles' absence to a minor illness. A press conference, during which the government planned to clarify Meles' health status, was scheduled for 18 July but postponed until later in the week. While the government acknowledged that Meles had been hospitalised, it stated that his condition was not serious. There were further rumours of his death when he was not seen in public after the 2012 G20 summit and at the time of the death of the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Paulos.
On 20 August, Meles Zenawi died after contracting an infection in Belgium. Some analysis[weasel words] claimed Meles death as a result of catecholamine after verbal attack incident[clarification needed] by Ethiopian journalist Abebe Gelaw.
Minister of Information Bereket Simon announced on state television:
It's a sad day for Ethiopia. The man who led our country for the past 21 years and brought economic and democratic changes, has died. We have lost our respected leader. Meles has been receiving treatment abroad. He was getting better and we were expecting him to return to Addis Ababa. But he developed a sudden infection and died around 11:40pm last night. His body will be returned to Ethiopia soon. We have set up a committee to organise his funeral. More information will be released about that soon. As per Ethiopian law, Hailemariam Desalegn has now taken over the leadership. He will also be in charge of the Ethiopian military and all other government institutions. I would like to stress, nothing in Ethiopia will change. The government will continue. Our policies and institutions will continue. Nothing will change in Ethiopia. Desalegn will be confirmed by parliament.
After his body was repatriated two days later, thousands of mourners congregated on streets from the airport to Meles' former residence to pay their last respects as his coffin, draped in the flag of Ethiopia, was accompanied by a military band. The event was attended by political, military, and religious leaders, as well as diplomats and his wife, Azeb Mesfin. The body lie in state. A declaration of national mourning was also issued. There were also fears of a power vacuum after his death, as well as a possible detriment to Eritrea-Ethiopian relations.
Meles's funeral took place in Addis Ababa on 2 September 2012 in a religious ceremony attended by at least 20 African presidents and thousands of Ethiopians gathered in Meskel Square.
Political leaders, states, and institutions offered their thoughts on Meles following his death.
Western NGOs Amnesty International called for the new administration to end Meles' "ever-increasing repression" and Human Rights Watch similarly added that the next administration should repeal the 2009 anti-terrorism law. As The New York Times asked about a gap between the United States of America's strategic and ideological goals in relation to its support for Meles' government, it quoted HRW researcher Leslie Lefkow as saying: "There is an opportunity here. If donors are shrewd, they will use the opportunity that this presents to push a much stronger and bolder human rights stance and need for reform." Author Dan Connell, who had interviewed Meles in June, said that "he seemed focused [then] on wrapping up a number of major projects as if he were aware the end was near. Meles knew his days were numbered." The Committee to Protect Journalists cited and criticised the secrecy around Meles' death. The Washington Post said that the "circumstances of his death remained laced with intrigue."
Regional groups responded with the Ogaden National Liberation Front saying it hoped his death "may usher [in] a new era of stability and peace" and Al Shabaab that it was celebrating the "uplifting news."
Meles acquired an MBA from the Open University of the United Kingdom in 1995 and a masters of science in economics from the Erasmus University of the Netherlands in 2004. In July 2002, he received an honorary doctoral degree in political science from the Hannam University in South Korea. Meles was married to Azeb Mesfin, a former rebel fighter in the TPLF and, as of 2013[update], a Member of Parliament. Meles was the father of three children; Semhal, Marda and Senay Meles.
During Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's rule, Ethiopia prospered economically (with double-digit economic growth for his last 9 years). The high economic growth is continuing 7 years after his death, since his party Tigray People's Liberation Front and EPRDF continued to work with the same policies. Ethiopia even became the fastest-growing economy in Africa.
Prime Minister Meles received various international awards for setting up a good foundation for the development of Ethiopia. Even though Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, the near double-digit annual economic growth rate recently is seen as the beginning of Ethiopia's long marathon struggle to eliminate poverty. Acknowledging the rapid GDP growth of the country, the UK newspaper The Economist said in December 2007 that "Ethiopia's economy has been growing at record speed in recent years." In 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) described the speed of Ethiopia's economic growth in recent years as the "fastest for a non-oil exporting country in Sub-Saharan Africa", with Ethiopia ranked as the second-most attractive African country for investors.
Several social, economic, religious, and political developments and systems were established for the first time in Ethiopia under Meles' rule.
Meles was given the Green Revolution award and a financial prize of 200,000 dollars by the Norwegian Yara Foundation in September 2005 "in recognition of past accomplishments and encouragement to achieve economic development for the people of Ethiopia."
Meles donated his $200,000 financial award to a foundation called "Fre—Addis Ethiopia Women Fund" (Fre-Addis Ethiopia Yesetoch Merja Mahiber). The Fre-Addis Ethiopia Women Fund has an objective "to empower girls through providing educational opportunities" and it currently supports 514 needy and orphan rural girls to pursue their education throughout the country.