Former Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi.
By Shushay Adane
As could be witnessed not only by the majority of his colleagues or the Ethiopian general public but also by intellectuals from across the globe who might have got access to listen and watch his speeches, analysis, read any piece written by him via various media outlets, his direct and indirect influences in all aspects of life at all levels on Ethiopians and the region in particular and the continent aMeles’ thoughts influenced the mindset of the peoplend beyond that in general was quite unquestionable. He was, at various stages regional and international stages expressed as the incident of the era.
Mehari Yohannes Gebru, Lecturer and Researcher at the Department of Political Science and Strategic Studies, Mekelle University said in his exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald that the late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi was the leading actor behind the transition from military to democratization and remaking of the new Ethiopia into the federal structure as well as new way of thinking about the nation building in Ethiopia in its new form that is multiculturalism. As to him, one can simply find his fingerprints and influences in every process in terms of leadership and philosophies of nation building.
He signified that the reason behind the crisis of the state throughout the 20th century was lack of accommodative nation building process which rejects the diversities of religions and nations and nationalities. It was, as to him, a highly centralized form of nation building process with the philosophy of nation state. This was the reality throughout the eras of emperor Haileselassie and the Derg regime, he reiterated. So it was the leadership of Meles and his comrades that turned this form of nation building into a new prospective or approach in a way that could accommodate such diversities the way it is now.
Meles’ influences since the early period of the new government were quite clear. He was influencing the mind setup of the people as well as his cadres and members and the Ethiopian public in general. “I can recognize him as a political leader, strategist as well as an academician particularly he took the lion’s share in terms of defining and contextualizing the concept of democratic developmental state into the Ethiopian ground or realities. He was very critical in terms of redefining foreign policy of the sate and very important concept of sovereignty and how it comes, where it lies and how it can be achieved, so his influences of ideas and thoughts are found in every part of the peoples’ lives.” he said.
Dr. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, President of Mekelle University, on the other hand stated that, by nature, it is impracticable to find someone who can exactly substitute somebody else. The same is true that there may not be an exact copy of Meles in TPLF, however, the party has been and is still undertaking his duties properly. As to him, Meles was known for creating capable leaders who can replace him that is why his legacies are being sustained in all aspects, economically, politically socially even after his death.
The late PM Meles, as a prime minister, was the one who shaped the new Ethiopia in post 1991. He really tried to lead the nation with the principle of equality of nations and nationalities, without even favoring to his nation, Tigray and that was from among the worthy mentioning contributions, qualities and influences of him. Mehari mentioned that Meles was a genuine enough and highly concerned to create social solidarity and common understanding and consensus among Ethiopians and Ethiopia after 1991 but his ways of articulating and thinking.
With reference to Meles’ influences in the region and all over Africa particularly in developing countries, Mehari said one incontrovertibly finds a giant Meles. In relation to his impact in the horn of Africa, the lecturer signified that Meles was very patient that he was not a hostile nation leader. He was always in need of diplomacy to settle the conflicts of Africa.
The horn is known for its being highly hostile and volatile region so it needs such leaders like Meles who was more than a leader. In the crisis of Somalia Meles was a strong figure in managing and influencing the situation. The same was true in those political crises of south Sudan and the proper Sudan. Further, he was also highly influencing the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as a regional institution towards a new thinking of regional policies in line with the 21st century.
Defining the path to development and its articulation are among many new ways of thinking Meles has inculcated in the minds of the new generation especially the youth, the researcher added. According to Mehari, Meles as an influential figure, has influenced not only the traditional rhetoric of Ethiopians but also the deep rooted source of history driven prides. Mehari, in this regard quoted one of Meles’ speeches, he said that Meles once upon a time, in one of his speeches to the Ethiopian youths redefined such a history driven prides: “If one is being proud merely of what hisher fathers or forefathers have accomplished in their times, it is quite an irrelevant pride, pride depends not only on history but also on current achievements in gaining economic developments”.
The other worth mentioning influential point as per Mehari on the subject at hand is the idea of sovereignty. As mentioned by him, sovereignty was, previously, more or less traditional territorialism; sovereignty for Meles was not, however, a territory or the river, the mountain or something else related to that. For Meles, territory emanates from people’s sovereignty, people’s freedom, people’s prosperity and prosperity in turn comes as a result of economic development.
The other unforgettable influential definition of Meles, as could be known from Mehari, is in defining what a state is; Meles’s definition of the state was a challenge to the traditional outlook. According to Meles, state is nothing else but the nations, nationalities and peoples of country. It lies on the consent of the people not on the interest of the central government or the elites who are commanding the central government. These are the most important ideas or points articulated by Meles and later on influenced the mind setup of the majority of the Ethiopia youth.
Asked to comment on the international community’s attitude towards Ethiopia after and before Meles’ death, he stated that the death of Meles for those out of neoliberalism was and is still a big loss and this is not only for Ethiopia but also for the whole of Africa and beyond as he was trying to influence the global politics or interest not only from African perspective but also the traditional regionalization of the third world, so for African leaders his death is like losing some of the prospective African influential for development.
Mehari reiterated that Meles was a very articulated orator and discourse maker, narrator, analyst , reader, mediator and a negotiator of many conflicts. “I could observe this from his writings and his speeches. He was very dynamic always used to learn from things and contextualize them into his beliefs and thought,” he stated. Meles, as to Mehari, was highly tolerant rather than bellicose as he believes in solving conflicts in a peaceful manner.
Commenting on Meles’ influence on universal access to education, the lecturer said that the new government under the leadership of the late PM Meles has expanded the universal coverage of education of secondary and tertiary levels. This is, according to him, a good record of the government under his leadership. By now, people across the nation have access to schools in their vicinity. Quite many universities are operating through out the country. He said that Meles was in a nutshell quite an exceptional figure not only in Ethiopia but also throughout Africa and even beyond that. “I do not want to limit myself from appreciating him, so the new generation has to follow his footprints,” he accentuated.
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