The state funeral of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the Trinity Cathedral last Sunday brought the closing of his chapter as a leader of the party and the country for over two decades.
In Meles’ death his influence both at the organizational level – inside the ruling EPRDF party and the TPLF, the main front in the coalition – and in the function of government was seen as rock-solid. In a statement given after the EPRDF Executive Committee concluded its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 4, it was said that succession of the Premier was delayed until the Congress takes place in the first week of the Ethiopian New Year, ie the week of September 11. At this time the congress is expected to name the EPRDF’s chairperson and its deputy. Succession to the position of the Prime Minister which is not considered as an urgent need for the ruling party will be realized after that. “What is urgent is how to organize the way to implement the vision of Prime Minister Meles.” The Committee further reiterated that issues that need emphasis ranging from the success of the Growth and Transformation Plan, to expanding the micro and small scale enterprises and job creation in urban areas and ensuring good governance will get priority rather than focusing on succession.
In his life time as the leader of the country and representing Africa he used to attend very many international meetings with world leaders and high profile dignitaries. In the last two decades he attended the African Union (AU) summit uninterruptedly. His death drew a number of African leaders to give him the last respect in Addis Ababa where they come to attend the AU summit in January every year.
Benin President and current AU Chairman Thomas Boni Yayi said, “Meles strongly supported the vision of the AU and represented and reflected African interest at different international stages like the G8, G20 and the world environmental forum.”
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that she feels it is deeply unfair to lose such a talented and vital leader so soon, when he still had so much more to give.
“Meles was disarmingly regular, unpretentious, and direct. He was selfless, tireless and totally dedicated to his work and family. In the toughest of times, he retained that twinkle in his eye, his ready smile, his roiling laugh and his wicked sense of humor. True, he never belied any lack of confidence in his judgments. He was tough, unsentimental and sometimes unyielding. And, of course, he had little patience for fools, or “idiots,” as he liked to call them.
“For, among Prime Minister Meles’ many admirable qualities, above all was his world-class mind. A life-long student, he taught himself and many others so much. But he wasn’t just brilliant. He wasn’t just a relentless negotiator and a formidable debater. He wasn’t just a thirsty consumer of knowledge. He was uncommonly wise – able to see the big picture and the long game, even when others would allow immediate pressures to overwhelm sound judgment. Those rare traits were the foundation of his greatest contributions.
Still, there was no shortage of occasions when, as governments and friends, we simply, sometimes profoundly, disagreed. But even as we argued – whether about economics, democracy, human rights, regional security or our respective foreign policies – I was always struck by two things: Meles was consistently reasoned in his judgments and thoughtful in his decisions; and, he was driven not by ideology but by his vision of a better future for this land he loved. I will deeply miss the challenge and the insights I gained from our discussions and debates,” she added.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, had this to say, “I say this, not simply to praise him because he is no longer with us, but from the knowledge of, and experience with him as a friend, a comrade, a leader, a visionary and gallant fighter for freedom. He was a man of such high calibre, rare talent and selflessness that we all feel the magnitude of the gap he has left.”
Presidents of Uganda Musevini, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Salva Kir of South Sudan, Jonathan of Nigeria also delivered speeches at Meskel square on Sunday.
The government also announced that a mausoleum to commemorate the life of the late Prime Minister. Acting Prime Minister Haile-Mariam Desalegn said that the government has decided to build a centre in Addis Ababa that can serve as a museum and a research centre for studying his life and work.