Meles Zenawi, the intellectual leader of Ethiopia, criticized more than his fair share alive was celebrated after his death. One can only say “better late than never”. Here I compiled the reactions of various personalities to the untimely death of the great leader.

1. Tony Blair, Former British Prime Minister

Tony blair“It is with great sadness that I learned of Meles Zenawi’s death. He was a hugely significant figure in Ethiopia’s history, in particular helping guide his country from extreme poverty to an era of economic growth and development. My deepest condolences go to his family and the people of Ethiopia.”

2. David Cameron, British Prime Minister

cameroon“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.”

3. Gordon Brown, the UK’s former prime minister

Meles+Zenawi+PM+Gordon+Brown+Hosts+First+Climate+SMLj3lRPFGTl“Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, made more progress in education, health and economic development under his leadership than at any time in its history, and it is a tragedy for the Ethiopian people that they have lost a committed leader and a champion of children at such a young age,” he said. “When I last saw him earlier this year we held meetings about how we would ensure every child would be in school in Ethiopia by 2015. His passion was in abolishing poverty and our hope is that he will inspire a new generation of men and women who will champion the cause of eradicating poverty.”

4. Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao of China

jintao and giabao”Meles was an outstanding leader of Ethiopia and a renowned African statesman who was dedicated to the great cause of national development and Africa’s revival.”

“Meles was an old friend of the Chinese people and paid high attention to advancing ties with China….We will never forget the great contributions that he made to the establishment and development of the China-Ethiopia cooperation. Meles’ death was not only a great loss to the Ethiopian people, but also to the Chinese people as he had always adhered to friendly policies with China and actively promoted bilateral cooperation in all areas, Wen said, adding the Chinese people felt regret and sadness at losing such an old friend. ”

5. Barack Obama, U.S. president

WMeles “deserves recognition for his lifelong contribution to Ethiopia’s development, particularly his unyielding commitment to Ethiopia’s poor,” Obama said in a statement.

“I met with Prime Minister Meles at the G-8 Summit in May and recall my personal admiration for his desire to lift millions of Ethiopians out of poverty through his drive for food security,” Obama said. “I am also grateful for Prime Minister Meles’s service for peace and security in Africa, his contributions to the African Union, and his voice for Africa on the world stage.”

6. Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Commission president

borosso“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.”

7. Barnaba Benjamin, South Sudanese Info Minister

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

We in South Sudan in particular, consider Ethiopia and especially Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a strategic ally that (who) always never let a friend down. Indeed we greatly mourn him and we extend our extensive condolences to the people of Ethiopia.”

8. Jacob Zuma, South African President

meles w zuma (south afr)”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 Africa region. ”

9. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia

220px-Ellen_Johnson-Sirleaf,_April_2010”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 of our meetings and all of our endeavour.

I don’t have fears [over the transition] because I believe there are many other leaders in Ethiopia who will get the support of regional leaders to make the transformation that is necessary, moving towards an open society.”

10. Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of Djibouti

PPresident Guelleh said in his message that he was deeply sorrowed to learn the death of “Djibouti’s great brother”.

“In this difficult time, the Government and People of Djibouti express their solidarity to the people of Ethiopia. Meles’ determination to bring his country among the top economic powers in the continent has started yielding fruit. As a role model for courage and conviction, Meles will be remembered for his brave fight against terrorism and violence in the region. Africa has lost one of its best men.”

11. Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda

yoweri”The death of Prime Minister Meles was not only a tragic loss to the people of Ethiopia but to the entire continent of Africa. “The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will always be remembered for his historic struggle for the unity of the great people of Ethiopia and his contribution towards the economic transformation of his country. As for Africa, we have been robbed of a great Pan- Africanist and a reliable partner in the struggle to bring peace and stability as well as the economic emancipation of the continent.”

12. Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya

kibaki“On behalf of the Government and the People of Kenya, I convey our deepest sympathies to the family of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the Government and People of Ethiopia following this devastating loss,” adding that “the late Prime Minister is a pragmatic and visionary leader who helped stabilize his country and placed it on the economic growth path. Meles’ leadership and negotiation skills would “forever be missed across the region and Africa.”

13. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel

netanehuBibi called Meles “a true friend” of Israel and “presented his condolences to the Ethiopian people”, his office said.

“Zenawi was loved in his country. He was also a true friend of Israel. During his mandate Ethiopia became one of Israel’s closest friends,” he said.

14. Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania

kikwete“Tanzania has received with profound shock and sadness news of the death of His Excellency Meles Zenawi. He said Ethiopia had lost a dedicated, revolutionary and visionary leader, while Africa has lost a reliable spokesperson, adding that the late Meles would be remembered for the steadfastness in defending the interests of Africa and its peoples. ”

15. Asuman Kiyingi, state minister for regional cooperation

”Uganda was shocked and saddened by the death of Meles, said, adding it was a big loss for the whole of Africa. He has been so instrumental in finding solutions to African problem.,”

16. Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s independence leader

kaunda“He’s a 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.

I knew him as a quiet man – smiling most of the time – and allowing you to feel at home in his presence.”

17. Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria

obasanjo“He has shown his sterner stuff that he is made of in fighting for his country’s emancipation from the rudderless, despotic military dictatorship to bringing his country up in development terms as one of the beacons of Africa. I have seen his performance at the African Union (AU), and it is because of his brilliance that leaders of Africa and I decided to hand over the AU NEPAD programme to him.

His death robs Africa of a committed, forthright, visionary and fearless leader. I condole with his family, the people, the government and his successor.”

18. Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, President of Puntland

He said that he was saddened by the death of Meles and sent condolences to the family of Meles and the people of Ethiopia.

19. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda

kagame“Meles Zenawi did not court greatness. He led a humble and simple but very meaningful life.

He was an unassuming person – but his sharp intellect and tremendous courage to face any kind of challenge made him a formidable presence. He had the capacity to grasp and cut through complex issues and move forward. It is these qualities that he used to lead the charge in the transformation of his country and that of our continent – restoring the dignity of Ethiopians and Africans as a whole.”

20. Jonathan Goodluck, President of Nigeria

goodluck“My dear friend, Meles, I will miss you greatly as a most worthy friend and colleague with whom I shared dreams of greater peace, political stability, good governance, progress and unity in our countries and all Africa. My country, Nigeria, will miss you as a great friend of our nation and all of Africa will miss you as a truly selfless, forthright and extremely dynamic leader. As you go to your eternal rest, our prayer is that the fires of patriotism and national inspiration which you have ignited amongst your people and the youth of Africa will burn forever to the glory of Ethiopia and Mother Africa.”

21. Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya

“Meles Zenawi was a great leader, an intellectual, someone who was very dedicated to pan-Africanism. One will remember him for the great effort he put in to transforming the Ethiopian economy. One fears for the stability of Ethiopia upon his death because you know that the Ethiopian state is fairly fragile and there is a lot of ethnic violence… I don’t know that [Ethiopian politicians] are sufficiently prepared for a succession: this is my fear, that there may be a falling out within the ruling movement.”

22. Ambassador Biniam Berhe, Political attaché, at the office of Eritrean Permanent Mission to the African Union in Addis Ababa  

Biniam has arrived to view the coffin of the Prime Minister with various African diplomats at Meles’ official residence of the national palace where his body was lying. Upon assuming power in 1991, Meles boldly confronted the Eritrean question and in the teeth of fierce opposition within his own party, he decided to organize a referendum to give the people of Eritrea the opportunity to decide between remaining in Ethiopia and secession. The referendum took place in 1993, and the new State of Eritrea was established. 

23. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and Manager og Gates and Malinda foundation tweeted   

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was a visionary leader who brought real benefits to Ethiopia’s poor. Our thoughts are with his family.

24. Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State

clinton“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. He was an important and influential voice in Africa, and we especially valued his role in promoting peace and security in the region. I am confident that Ethiopia will peacefully navigate the political transition according to its constitution”

25. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde

“Among his many achievements, Prime Minister Meles was instrumental in raising economic growth and reducing poverty in Ethiopia. Prime Minister Meles was also a powerful spokesman for Africa on the international scene.

26. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

S“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.…the Secretary-General will remember, in particular, Prime Minister Zenawi for his active commitment to working with the United Nations on numerous global peace and development challenges,”

27. Barry Malone, a journalist, shared his encounter with Meles

“I once asked Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died on Aug. 20 from an unspecified illness at age 57, whether he was a dictator. He grinned and then, stopping, just looked at me.

More… Nervously, I did what a journalist should never do, and filled the silence.

“A lot of people call you that,” I said.

He told me he didn’t care much what foreigners thought and that the people who described him that way were rarely his countrymen. “If Ethiopians thought that I was what you say, I would not sleep at night,” he said. “But I don’t believe they do.”

28. AU honors meles Zenawi

AUThe Commission in a press statement said that it will remember the late Prime Minister for his exceptional contribution to the advancement of the objectives of the AU and the promotion of Africa’s interests in Global fora.

The Premier has also overseen the dramatic transformation of his country, which is today one of the top economic performers on the continent.In so doing, he has played an important role in pioneering a new era of hope and growth in Africa, driven as he was by the vision of Ethiopia and Africa’s renaissance.

The death of Prime Minister Meles has robbed Africa of one of its greatest sons, it said.

29. Professor Akbar Noman

Watch his interview with ETV’s Tefera Gedamu here  (Link – video)

30. Kayef Halek, Yemen – Ethiopian Friendship Association

” We express our sincere condolence and deepest sympathy & feel great sadness the passing away of his Excellency Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who had relentlessly served his nation with integrity and loyalty to emancipate Ethiopia and its peoples from poverty and backwardness and showed us the hope of transformation. He was extraordinary conversationalist in local & international stages in every topic and he had been ambitious to see Ethiopia developed & progressed in his time. He had been an excellent political & economical leader that Ethiopia has seen in its history.”


Amb. Susan Rice and the Ethiopian diaspora

riceThe most controversial Statement of the year was delivered by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations who also headed the presidential deligation of United States.

“Like so many others, i will miss him deeply” said Susan Rice

I suspect we all feel it 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.

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.

“Prime Minister Meles leaves behind an indelible legacy of major contributions to Ethiopia, Africa, and the world. His loss will be greatly felt in so many places in so many ways. 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”.

This eulogy earned her trashing from the extreme right wingers of Ethiopian diaspora. Well, Susan did it again at a memorial event held at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York.

“His passions were undisguised, and his criticisms unvarnished. He could negotiate even the smallest issue to death, but his raucous laugh could leaven any difficult discussion. Meles was a self-taught scholar and a voracious learner. He probably often figured he was the smartest person in the room, and most of the time Meles was right – at least about that.

In truth, on any number of issues, Meles and I differed and sometimes argued strenuously, whether on human rights, democracy or our respective foreign policies. But, Meles was respectful of his partners, disarming in his dedication, and thoroughly committed to his work on behalf of Ethiopia.

Above all, Meles believed in Ethiopia and the potential of its people. So too does the United States of America. As I said in Addis, “…while Meles’ loss is profound, Ethiopia’s greatness is undiminished.

Our admiration for your accomplishments is enduring. Your moving outpouring of grief and dramatic displays of national unity in the face of this tragedy have inspired us all. Your talents and strengths are those of a remarkable people, far larger and deeper than any single remarkable man. Ethiopia’s future can and must be brighter. And, I am confident it will be.”

shinnHer fellow diplomat and former U.S. ambassador  to Ethiopia David Shinn came to Rice’s defence.

“I was saddened by some of the vituperative and just plain disrespectful remarks (usually by anonymous individuals) that subsequently appeared on Ethiopian websites in response to the remarks of Ambassador Rice. While I was not invited to make remarks, I have no doubt that whatever I might have said would also have been harshly criticized by these same individuals.” ( see here )

And, he then earned some trashing for himself that made him say this…

“I seemed to have touched off a firestorm with this posting. …This will be my last comment on this issue. I just want to end where I began. This was a memorial service. What is important for Ethiopians now is to look forward, to help make Ethiopia a better place. I hope some of the harshest critics can find their way to support organizations like the Ethiopian-North American Health Professionals Association and People to People and less time fulminating.”

Lets hope they heed his advice.


Please check the archives for more on the issues raised above.

* This article is part of the “Post-Meles 2012″ Special Edition of this blog.


Fetsum Berhane is an Ethiopian resident, economist researcher and a blogger on HornAffairs.