By Berhane Kahsay, July 05, 2012
PM Meles Zenawi’s service to his country is second to none. Leaders have come and gone, and so far, no-one has come near him in terms of his sheer determination to bring about a qualitative change in the standard of living of the Ethiopian people. He has been at it since his early teens, and his desire to take the country to the dizzy heights of economic success is undiminished. When he calls it a day, it would be a tough act to follow for his successor.
Let us scheme through the PM’s greatest achievements over last three decades or so in order to comprehend why is greatly respected and admired by the Ethiopian people and the international community at large. Under his watch, the TPLF in collaboration with its partners (EPRDF) defeated the largest army in black Africa in just seventeen years. At a certain point in its life, the TPLF was unsure of its direction and was heading into a cul-de-sac but its visionary leader devised and implemented strategies that eventually led to the total routing of the Derg. After the removal of the Junta, many ill-wishers predicted a bloody civil war in the country but the Liberia and Somalia scenarios completely failed to materialise due to the way the situation was handled by the Transitional Government (TG) of the day led by President Meles.
After the mandate of the TG came to an end, three successive general elections were held and each time the EPRDF won them by a landslide. PM Meles inherited a country with empty coffers, but in just twenty years, he has transformed Ethiopia into the 5th largest growing economy in the world; for the last eleven years the country’s economy has been growing annually at the rate of 10% or over and the indications are that this will continue for the foreseeable future. Foreign investors buoyed by the prevailing stability and investment incentives put in place are flocking into the country in droves, and it will not be too long before Ethiopia joins the family of middle income countries. To make the country attractive for foreign investors, PM Meles’ administration is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure including 5000 kilometres of railway network. Only recently contracts worth $3.5 billion were signed with Turkish and Chinese companies to link Mekelle with Weldia and Weldia with Awash, and the contract for the final link to the port of Djibouti is expected to be awarded to an Indian company. Work for railway transport for Addis is already in progress and should be in operation in the not too distant future.
PM Meles has firmly fixed his sights on the industrialisation of Ethiopia and to this end the investment on hydro-power energy has been taking place for some time now. Various dams in different parts of the country have been constructed over the years and the deficit in energy consumption is whittled down bit by bit. The PM has become the first Ethiopian leader to call the Egyptians bluff and gave the go ahead for the construction of the mega Millennium Dam by re-routing a portion of the Abay River. The PM also successfully rebuffed the now deceased Arab leader Kaddafi who for years incessantly attempted to move the head quarters of the African Union (AU) from Addis Ababa to Tripoli. The Libyan tyrant is dead and the AU has a magnificent new building, and the issue of relocation is now sorted once and for all.
The PM’s diplomatic skills were further put into good use when he successfully negotiated with the Italian government to uproot the 1,800 years old Axum Obelisk that was shipped to Rome in 1937, and return it to its rightful place. On the other hand, various Greek governments have failed in their endeavours to repatriate the Parthenon Sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles that were confiscated from Greece and in public display at the British Museum in London since 1817. Manuscripts, statues and other objects of high historical significance are displayed in the museum and the likelihood of those returning to their original homes is negligible indeed.
During the Ethio-Eritrea war, Eritrea had the upper hand on the diplomatic front, but in no time, the hard working and shrewd PM reversed this trend in Ethiopia’s favour despite the fact that The Hague’s verdict was for Eritrea. This miniature entity has now become a failed pariah state where its youth are trampling over each other to abandon their mother land ignoring the dangers emanating from Arab couriers engaged in forcibly removing human organs for sale. The PM also successfully managed to place a wedge between the Eritrean people and Esayass, and the people no longer blame ‘woyane’ for their grave predicaments ; application of similar skills have further brought about the complete fragmentation of the OLF, and whatever is left of this organisation, poses no serious threat to the stability of Ethiopia.
PM Meles’ impeccable achievements in all spheres have been acknowledged by the world, and he is routinely invited to attend various meetings of the G-8 countries representing Africa. The strong, dependable and agile Ethiopian Defence Force which is the creation of Meles is invariably invited to go to hot spot countries such as Somalia, South Sudan, Brundi, Liberia, and Darfur to keep the peace. The modern and highly effective Ethiopian Intelligence Service (EIS) is also Meles’ brain child, and the EIS is succeeding in sniffing out terrorists such as Al-shabab before they commit heinous crimes. Because of Kenya’s involvement in Somalia, Al-Shebab is causing havoc by detonating explosives in the border areas, where as in Ethiopia, the EIS has kept the terrorist outfit at bay and the millions of Somalis living in Ethiopia have played their part in thwarting potential threats.
PM Meles has done a sterling job for his country and he will be remembered as the man who made Ethiopia self sufficient in food production, and for laying a strong foundation for future growth that will make Ethiopia the ‘Tiger’ economy of the Horn. The widespread health coverage and the expansion of higher education will also be his long lasting legacy.