The Meles Zenawi Foundation was established at a launching ceremony held on April 7th at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa.
The Foundation, established by the proclamation of the House of Peoples’ Representatives in January 25th this year is intended to serve: “as Meles Zenawi’s final resting place; as a sanctuary for Meles Zenawi’s political legacy to Ethiopia and the rest of Africa; and as a site for scholarship on Meles Zenawi’s words and deeds.”
It will be dedicated to preserving and advancing the legacy of his lifelong commitment to peace, justice, economic development, good governance, and democracy for the Ethiopian and African people, and provide a living memorial to his selfless struggle and statesmanship for the freedom and equality of the peoples of Ethiopia; a place for the study of the new life that Meles Zenawi breathed into Africa’s aspiration for peace, democracy and development.
To achieve these goals, the Foundation seeks to become a cutting-edge, first class international institution to serve as a center of ideas and actions to reflect on the vision of Meles Zenawi, preserving and expanding on his work.
It will include a state-of-the-art library and research center where the written documents he produced throughout his life will be preserved; a center to establish vibrant educational programs to advance the values and principles inherent in the promotion of mutual cooperation and understanding among peoples around the world; a scholarship scheme, especially for women, to enable them continue secondary and university education; a prize trust for people who have excelled in their respective fields or made noteworthy contribution to the betterment of society; support for environmental protection and the green economy through advocacy and education; and a public memorial park in honor of the late prime minister.
The Foundation also expects to attract visitors from all walks of life, ranging from scholars using the resources of the library to peoples walking in the memorial park.
The ceremony was attended by regional leaders including President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti and President Omar Hassan al Beshir of the Republic of Sudan, as well as Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, the Prime Minister of Somalia, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, the Foreign Ministers of Rwanda and Seychelles and other high dignitaries.
Prime Minister Hailemariam remembered the late Prime Minister Meles as an “exemplary leader with unique leadership skills and a flawless performance as chief of the executive”. He said that from an early age until his premature demise he worked without rest to accomplish tremendous achievements.
The Prime Minister noted that Meles had led and fought against tyranny, designed strategies that were instrumental in extracting the country and its people out of the quagmire of poverty and lack of democratic governance, and, as Prime Minister, had saved his country from the brink of disintegration and put it on a solid basis of democracy and development. As a true son of Africa, he had also championed the cause of Ethiopia and indeed Africa in international fora.
In a word, said Prime Minister Hailemariam, Meles was a treasure trove for those who were interested in in-depth research on a study of his life and the continuity of the renaissance of Ethiopia.”
Former First Lady, Azeb Mesfin, noted that the Foundation would provide scholarships for researchers interested to study Meles’s academic works to ensure the continuity of the implementation of his vision.
President Yoweri Museveni described Meles as one of the new breed of African leaders who were independently minded, courageous, patriotic Pan Africanists who transcended their countries in search of development and scorned sectarianism, adding that `the memory of his contribution will be our Motto.’
He remembered Meles stress on the need to create strong structures with particular emphasis on infrastructure development, and that Africa needed to address power shortages as one of the means to enable its development efforts.
President Museveni reminded his listeners that Meles had increased electricity generation in Ethiopia from 300 megawatts when he came to power to 2200 megawatts today. He also hailed him for his work in modernizing agriculture and the provision of irrigation and other essential facilities.
President Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti described Meles as a man of action who visualized a bright future for his country, adding that he had been eager to provide for those who had little. “We will work hard to fulfill the dreams of Djibouti and Ethiopia,” he said.
President Omar Al- Bashir of Sudan remembered Meles’s significant role in facilitating peace negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan and emphasized his role for Africa on the international scene.
The Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdi Farah Shirdon, welcomed the Foundation as a way to keep Meles’ legacy alive for the future generations, and hailed his work for peace and stability in Africa.
AU Chairperson, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, remembered the late premier as visionary leader, who had managed to transform Ethiopia, at one time known only for poverty and hunger, into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and the world.
Reflections on the life and works of the late Prime Minister were presented by Professor Andreas Eshete, Dr. Getachew Betru, Alex De Waal and other dignitaries.
Ethiopia’s neighbors have generously pledged a total of US$3.8 million to help support the Foundation (Sudan – US$ 2million; South Sudan US$1 million, Djibouti US$500,000 and Uganda 300,000).
The Foundation will have a thirteen member board, four from Meles’ family, to oversee its activities which will be based in Addis.
Meles’s widow, Azeb Mesfin has been named as chair of the Board with the House of Federation Speaker, Kassa Tekle-Birhan, as Vice- Chairperson.
* Originally published on A Week in the Horn of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – on April 12, 2013 issue, titled “The Meles Zenawi Foundation established”.
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