||This article has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality. (April 2013)|
|Prime Minister of Ethiopia|
23 August 1995 – 20 August 2012
|Preceded by||Tamirat Layne (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Hailemariam Desalegn|
|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
|Born||Legesse Meles Asres
8 May 1955
|Died||20 August 2012
|Political party||Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front|
|Tigrayan People's Liberation Front|
|Alma mater||Open University
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Meles Zenawi Asres (Ge'ez: መለስ ዜናዊ አስረስ mäläs zenawi asräs listen (help·info); 8 May 1955 – 20 August 2012, born Legesse Zenawi Asres) was the Prime Minister of Ethiopia from 1995 until his death in 2012. From 1985, he was the chairman of the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF), and the head of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). He was President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995 and became the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 1995 following the general elections that year. 
In 1975, he left college to join the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, and opposing the Derg. After the overthrow, he was elected as Prime Minister.
While his government was credited with reforms such as those that led a multi-party political system in Ethiopia, introduction of private press in Ethiopia and decreased child mortality rates, his government was also accused of political repression and various human rights abuses, curbing freedom of press. and dissent. Known by the media as one of Africa's strongmen, he was also an ally in the United States' "War on Terror".
Meles was born in Adwa, Tigray, in northern Ethiopia, to an Ethiopian father from Adwa and a mother from Adi Quala, Eritrea. He graduated from the General Wingate High school in Addis Ababa, then studied medicine at Addis Ababa University (at the time known as Haile Selassie University) for two years before interrupting his studies in 1975 to join the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF). Aregawi Berhe, a former member of the TPLF, notes that in their histories of the TPLF both John young and Jenny Hammond "vaguely indicate" that Meles was one of the founders of the TPLF. Aregawi insists that both he and Sibhat Nega joined the Front "months" after it was founded. While a member of the TPLF, Meles founded the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray. His first name at birth was "Legesse" (thus Legesse Meles, Ge'ez: ለገሰ ዜናዊ legesse zēnāwī). However, he eventually became better known by his nom de guerre Meles, which he later adopted in honour of university student and fellow Tigrayan Meles Tekle who was executed by Mengistu's government in 1975.
The TPLF was one of many armed groups struggling against Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam and the Derg, the junta which governed Ethiopia. Meles was elected Leader of the Leadership Committee in 1979 and Leader of the Executive Committee 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 (TGE), during which Eritrea seceded from the country and the experiment of ethnic federalism started.
Meles acquired an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from the Open University of the United Kingdom in 1995 and an masters of science in economics from the Erasmus University of the Netherlands in 2004. In July 2002, Meles received an honorary doctoral degree in political science from the Hannam University in South Korea.
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 Moscow-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 helped the EPRDF rebels to get power in Ethiopia and many angry demonstrators in Addis Ababa protested against Herman Cohen, the U.S. State Department's chief of African affairs who attended a conference that demonstrators viewed as legitimizing the EPRDF. A New York Times editorial commented in 1991,
Even though EPRDF's success was welcomed as a relief from DERG strong anti-EPRDF sentiments were present in many areas and strongly visible in Addis Ababa. These were just the beginning of the opposition to Meles' EPRDF party after it gained power and more strong opposition followed. Addis Ababa has since been the center of peaceful opposition to the EPRDF, while the eastern Somali Region has been the most active region for armed opposition.
Following the defeat and exile of Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, the July 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.
|This section is too long. Consider splitting it into new pages, adding subheadings, or condensing it. (February 2013)|
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 South Sudan's independence as the rebels fought the government in Khartoum. Since the War on Terrorism, Meles sought to consolidate Ethiopia's hegemony 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, since 2009 he had been praised for working towards a stable situation along with the African Union.
||It has been suggested that this section be split into a new article titled Eritrea–Ethiopia relations. (Discuss) Proposed since March 2013.|
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 originally left the decision of independence to the Eritrean citizens in the hope that the independence referendum would vote against secession, according to Time magazine's 1991 analysis. However, after the EPLF secured their borders when Mengistu's regime fell, and after the majority of Eritreans voted for independence on 24 May 1993, Isaias Afewerki became the leader of Eritrea. Many people[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 Afewerki's 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. After the Ethiopian breach of the western front and subsequent capture of parts of western Eritrea, 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. Though Ethiopian troops controlled Badme, after an international court[which?] ruled that Badme belonged to Eritrea, Ethiopia continued to maintain a presence of Ethiopian soldiers in the town.
After Meles signed a United Nations peace treaty, Defense Minister Siye Abraha, disagreed with those aligned with Meles over "key issues of ideology" and accused Meles' supporters of corruption and of Zenwai for failing to act quickly or decisively enough over the crisis with Eritrea. This led to a showdown at a meeting of the Politburo of the EPRDF, wherein Meles won a 15–13 vote on his proposed statement that "the greatest threat that Ethiopia was facing was corruption and undemocratic tendencies." Meles said afterwards that the dissenting members had at that point insisted that the meeting be aborted and called for a general meeting of the TPLF, a move Meles described as "a violation of democratic principles and the statute of the front." A number of the dissenting members of the TPLF, including Siye, were quickly arrested and imprisoned. Siye was later released after six years in prison, and joined opposition parties. This rift is thought[by whom?] to have led to the murder of Kinfe Gebremedhin, a former TPLF commander, Chief of Security and Immigration and a right-hand man of Meles.[original research?]
Some[who?] believe Meles wanted Aferwerki to remain in power, despite their deep disagreements. According to a BBC Monitoring report, Meles reportedly blocked four million dollars of support from being transferred from Yemen and Sudan to the Eritrean National Alliance opposition group which was trying to overthrow the Eritrean regime.
In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) assumed control of much of the southern part of Somalia and promptly imposed Shari'a law. The Transitional Federal Government sought to re-establish 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.
Following this defeat, the Islamic Courts Union splintered into several different factions. Some of the more radical elements, including Al-Shabaab, regrouped to continue their insurgency against the TFG and oppose the Ethiopian military's presence in Somalia. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Al-Shabaab scored military victories, seizing control of key towns and ports in both central and southern Somalia. At the end of 2008, the group had captured Baidoa but not Mogadishu. By January 2009, Al-Shabaab and other militias had managed to force the Ethiopian troops to retreat, leaving behind an under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force to assist the TFG's troops.
Some political parties[which?] in Ethiopia opposed Meles' policies and demanded the complete withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia. Merera Gudina, leader of the opposition party United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) said "the military victory against the Islamic Courts forces was not followed by political victory or national reconciliation." He also said staying in Somalia harms the Ethiopian economy[why?] and some of the leaders in the transitional Somali government were not reaching out to civil society members in Somalia. With the exception of the SPDP, UEDP-Medhin (EDUP) and ONC opposition parties, not many opposition parties in Ethiopia supported the choice of intervention in Somalia by Meles' ruling party.[dead link] Some members[which?] of the Somali parliament also expressed their appreciation of Ethiopia's help publicly, but opposition remained against the intervention, which was portrayed as an invasion instead.[by whom?][dead link]
Between 31 May and 9 June 2008, representatives of Somalia's TFG and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) group of Islamist rebels participated in peace talks in Djibouti brokered by the former United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. The conference ended with a signed agreement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in exchange for the cessation of armed confrontation. Parliament was subsequently expanded to 550 seats to accommodate ARS members, which then elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former ARS chairman, to office.
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.
On 12 December 2009 at COP15, the Africa Group made a further submission to the UNFCCC that called for 45% emission reductions by developed countries by 2020, finance for adaptation of $150 billion immediately as special drawing rights from the IMF, $400 billion in fast-track financing, and 5% of developed countries' GNP in longer-term financing. On 15 December 2009, Meles Zenawi issued a joint press release with the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, which declared that the African Union position at Copenhagen was a 2 °C temperature target, 10 billion euros in 'fast-track financing,' and 100 billion euros in 'long-term financing.' This new position from Meles was observed to be the same[by whom?] as the European Union's position and received widespread condemnation by other African leaders, including Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Lesotho’s Bruno Sekoli, Ugandan chief negotiator and Minister of Water and Environment Maria Mutagamba and Sudan’s Ambassador and Chair of G77, Lumumba Di-Aping. African civil society groups[which?] condemned the position as a betrayal of Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the two-degree target "condemns Africa to incineration and no modern development".
||This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (January 2013)|
According to Freedom House, under the government of Meles discrimination against and repression of Oromo people was widespread. Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that local government in the Oromia Region has "routinely commit[ted] various human rights violations against people they believe to be critical or unsupportive of the government." After relations between the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the ruling government broke down in 1992, the government banned the OLF, and has since regularly accused political detainees of being OLF operatives. HRW further notes that "according to former Ethiopian President Negasso Gidada, when he left office in 2001 roughly 25,000 people were in prison on OLF-related charges throughout Oromia and in Addis Ababa and no public moves have since been made to substantially reduce the number of detainees."
On 13 December 2003 an ethnic conflict in the Gambela Region led to the death of 61 Anuaks in one day and hundreds more over the coming months. It is alleged that highlanders were being helped by the Ethiopian Defense forces. According to Amnesty International, federal soldiers participated in the killings and regional authorities did not take necessary preventative measures against the violence.
The highlanders are mostly from the northern regions of Amhara and Tigray (but also Oromia). They populated the Gambela region after they were forced to move southwest from the north in the mid-1980s. When Mengistu Haile Mariam ruled in the 1980s, more than 1.5 million Ethiopians were forced to relocate, which led to more than 200,000 Ethiopian dead and many more sick in what is described as one of the worst humanitarian crises of that decade. Since then some northern highlanders have been living in Gambela, adding fuel to an already existing conflict between the Nuar and the Anuaks.
In December 2003, some of the highlanders who worked for the Ethiopian refugee agency were looking for new camps to shelter the thousands of Sudanese fleeing from their country's internal battles. Early that month, a group of armed Anuak killed many highlanders. Anuak rebels had also killed eight people in an attack on a United Nations vehicle. Ethiopian Defense Forces set up their headquarters at the refugee camp and took the bodies of the dead highlanders to Gambella town for burial, triggering an attack against Anuak civilians on 13 December 2003, which continued for several days. The massacres were labeled a "genocide" by Genocide Watch, which later charged that genocidal massacres were also committed against ethnic Ogadenis, and other groups, and called for an investigation of the human rights record of the Meles regime in an open letter to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Anuak people maintain they have been gradually displaced from their traditional lands. Despite 5,000 Ethiopian troops being deployed to keep peace in the area, tensions are still high. Anuak tribesmen interviewed by BBC correspondents said they appreciated the government's effort to keep peace against Anuak rebels, yet ordinary Anuaks still fear for their lives. In October 2005, Anuak rebels attacked a Catholic church and a police station.
The Ethiopian government, including Meles, stated that both the Anuak insurgents and the highlander militias were responsible for the conflict and "without the intervention of the army, the killings would have continued indefinitely." Regional security forces made an effort to restrain the tension between the ethnic groups, which are historically enemies. After an independent investigation, four town soldiers were put in prison for favoring one ethnicity over another during the ethnic conflicts. Many regional government officials claim the number of dead was not 400, but that around 200 armed Anuaks and highlanders were killed after the ethnic violence.
The government and other critical analysts often disregard pro-Anuak sources of information and testimonies, seeing them as biased against other local ethnicities. However some Anuak sources gave diverse accounts. For instance, Anuak refugees and witnesses who claimed they saw the conflict and massacre said that the bloodshed was started by anti-government civilians as well as anti-government soldiers and anti-government officials in order to create problems for the government. One witness said,
I think that among the mob and the soldiers there was a group of people who were against the government and wanted to use this opportunity to put the government in a problem. I think that there were anti-government and anti-Anywaa elements within the army who orchestrated this type of killing.
Despite progress to curb the historical ethnic divisions and political tensions, there still remains a relatively tense political situation in the Gambella region. Recently[when?] the Gambella Peace Olympics, a sport festival promoting peace and development amongst the Gambella region's ethnic groups, including Anuaks and Nuars, was held in a bid to bring about constructive dialogue and long-term peace among the region's often feuding ethnic groups.
In response to the aftermath of the 2005 election, Meles told the Washington Post: "I would love to be the African leader that steps down, that overthrows this idea of a Big Man ruler. I don’t want to stay in office forever."
On 18 October 2006 an independent report said Ethiopian police massacred 193 protesters, mostly in the capital Addis Ababa, in the violence of June and November following the May 2005 elections. The information was leaked before the official independent report was handed to the parliament. The leak made by Ethiopian judge Wolde-Michael Meshesha found that the government had concealed the true extent of deaths at the hands of the police.
This leak also brought more accusations that the opposition party which provoked the riots was trying to damage the reputation of the government by leaking the inquiry unlawfully. Gemechu Megerssa, a member of the independent Inquiry commission, which Mr. Meshesha once worked with, said Mr. Meshesha taking the report "out of context and presenting it to the public to sensationalise the situation for his political end is highly unethical."
The judge[who?] in Europe described the deaths as a massacre and said the toll could well have been higher. The judge was filing for asylum and is currently living in Europe, bringing speculation that he was biased to begin with in support of the opposition party, but he claimed that he had to leave the country because he thought he would be "harassed" by the government. He speculated that Meles ordered troops to shoot at protesters. But according to the New York Times, Meles said "he did not authorize the police to use live bullets."
The official report described by the parliament and the government gave exactly the same details as the leaked inquiry. It said that 193 people had been killed, including 40 teenagers. Six policemen were also killed and some 763 people injured. Police records showed 20,000 people were initially arrested during the anti-government protests. The government said various witnesses from the Kinijit (CUD) opposition party have testified that CUD leaders assured them of a demise of Meles' party and government in order to start an armed rebellion. The witnesses stated that CUD leaders encouraged them to start military training and planning to overthrow the government. The commission members living in Addis Ababa criticised the government saying;
We are not saying the government was totally clean. The government has a lot to be accountable for. The mentality of the police needs to be changed, and then we will be able to minimize those kinds of casualties in the future. Building of [democratic] institutions is required, but that is going to take time. The government was not prepared to tackle violence like that which took place last year. They could have brought an alternative way of dispersing rioting crowds.
The independent Inquiry commission members added Meshesha going to Europe and reporting information out of context was "dishonest" and ugly politics, as well as insensitive to the process of developing Ethiopia's young democracy. The commission said Ethiopians need to solve their problems themselves so that this kind of violence will not occur again, that respecting authority and each other and working together is important, and that changing the mentality of the police is what the "government has to think about seriously."
Despite all these post-election issues and complications, in addition to the Carter Center and the US government British MPs continued to praise the democratic process in Ethiopia. After meeting with some opposition parties, British MPs stated that the Ethiopian government should always stand firmly against those who try to use "undemocratic and unconstitutional means" to change government.
Presently, all except 20 of the elected opposition members have joined the Ethiopian parliament along with the EPRDF party members. Top opposition parties, UEDF and UEPD-Medhin, are peacefully working with the government for negotiations on the democratic process. Many opposition parties are represented in the Ethiopia Parliament, where representatives from Oromia state hold the most seats and representatives from the Amhara State hold the second-most seats, in correlation with the population order of the corresponding states. Various opposition parties including UEDF, UEPD-Medhin, Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP), EDL, Gambella People's Democratic Movement (GPDM), All Ethiopian Unity Organization (AEUO), Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and Benishangul-Gumuz People's Democratic Unity Front (BGPDUF) hold seats in the parliament. Despite pressure to release the CUD leaders who were rounded up after the post election violence, an Ethiopian court convicted 38 of the top CUD leaders. After various negotiations to solve the deadlock via a political agreement, the convicted CUD leaders signed a document, which many believe was coerced out of them, accepting their "mistakes" and an accountability ranging from partial to full responsibility for the post-election violence.
Currently, all of the leaders of the main opposition party (CUD) are out of jail after an alleged attempt to initiate the post-election violence and overthrow the government. All of these charges are denied by the CUD leadership both in and outside Ethiopia, and the European Union continues to plea for the political prisoners to be released after a speedy trial. Some of these elected CUD officials endure very harsh conditions inside Ethiopia's poorly maintained prisons and they are at risk of various medical complications. As a result of the violence after the elections, many thousands were arrested and imprisoned. Even though most have been freed a few still remain in prison. Up to the end of 2005, around 8,000 Ethiopian rioters had been freed.
After long and slow judicial proceedings an Ethiopian judge dropped the controversial charges of attempted genocide and treason against 111 people arrested after election protests. Twenty-five accused, mostly journalists and publishers, have also been acquitted of all charges. However several opposition leaders remain in custody, accused of trying to violently overthrow the government. After the original arrests the Prime Minister told the parliament that releasing "these hardliners" would embolden them to think "whatever their action, they will not be held accountable." Thus, he stated, "the government has made it abundantly clear that interfering with the judicial process for the release of hardliners is out of the question. The government has taken this unwavering position not because of stubbornness or for a lack of willingness to resolve issues through dialogue and negotiation." The ruling party has accused the group of trying to utilize street uprising techniques as a way to change regimes. Various supporters of the government and supporters of peaceful opposition parties who function in the parliament continue to accuse the imprisoned opposition group of "extremism" and accuse them of following the textbook directions given by Dr. Negede. An exiled and educated Ethiopian, Dr. Negede is known for the famous book he wrote on how to overthrow the government through street uprising. However Amnesty International and the supporters of the group in jail claim that the detainees are "prisoners of conscience" who are innocent and should be freed immediately and unconditionally. In June 2007, the Ethiopian court found the CUD opposition party's 38 senior figures guilty of the charges. After CUD's top leaders signed a paper accepting responsibility for the violence, some sources claimed the leaders would be freed in a short time. All of the leadership of the CUD party were released after the pardon board accepted their apology letter. According to VOA news, a CUD spokesman Hailu Araya said, "We signed it voluntarily. We apologized to the people, to the government. Yes, we did. That’s what the paper said, and that’s what we signed."
Meles Zenawi's government allegedly carried out brutal counter-insurgency techniques against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), particularly after the ONLF killed more than 70 Ethiopic and Ethiopian Oil facility workers in the region in April 2007. Both sides accuse each other of human rights abuses. In June 2008, HRW criticized the lack of Western condemnation of Meles' counter-insurgency policy and the military activities by Ethiopian Defence forces in reaction to ONLF's attacks.
Both fighting forces accuse each other of killing civilians and burning villages, with HRW claiming that accounts by refugees fleeing out of the country support ONLF's accusations. Both Ethiopia and its allies claim refugees fleeing out of Ethiopia, instead of taking shelter from the conflict inside Ethiopia, were supporters of the ONLF who cannot be used as an independent source of evidence.
Western governments continued to state that they will check into the various allegations from all sides.
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 Haile Mariam Desalegne 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.
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."
Desalegn said: "Under the Ethiopian constitution the deputy prime minister will take the oath of office before parliament. [MPs should convene] as soon as possible."
After his body was repatriated on an Ethiopian Airlines flight two days later, thousands of mourners had 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, who was dressed in black as she left the plane. The body will lie in state and the funeral date set is arranged. 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.
||This article is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (August 2012)|
Political leaders, states and institutitions offered their thoughts on Meles following his death.
Western NGOs Amnesty International called for the new administraion 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."
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.
Although many opposition parties and parliamentarian critics disagree, some Ethiopians also portray the arrival date of Meles' government, 28 May 1991 (Ginbot 20), as the "birth of democracy" in Ethiopia, while diplomats and analysts say the country is slowly moving towards democracy.
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.
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