Meles Zenawi

Ethiopian politician; Prime Minister of Ethiopia (1955-2012)

Meles Zenawi (Ge'ez: መለስ ዜናዊ አስረስ Mäläs Zenawi Äsräs; 8 May 195520 August 2012) was the Prime Minister of Ethiopia from 1995 to 2012.

I am proud to be an Ethiopian. I am proud to be a part of that history.


  • Africa's downfall has always been the cult of the personality. And their names always seem to begin with M. We've had Mobutu and Mengistu and I'm not going to add Meles to the list.
    • As quoted in Jonathan Dimbleby, "Ethiopia proves there can be life after death", The Guardian, 28 July, 2002.
  • ..countries pretend their foreign policy is based on democratisation when this is clearly not the case. For all the challenges in Zimbabwe, for example, it is a bit of a stretch to say it is less democratic than some of the sheikhdoms of the Gulf. But none of the sheikdoms has a problem visiting Europe.
    • Meles Zenawi's response about European sanctions and travel ban on Zimbabwe's Mugabe, as quoted in Simon Tisdall, "To Ipmose Democracy from Outside is inherently Undemocratic", The Guardian, 25 January, 2008.
  • If it is presumed that the Kenyans will democratise in order to eat the peanuts of development assistance from the European Union... it would be a big mistake.
    • Meles Zenawi's reaction to European threat of sanctions on Kenya, as quoted in "Western world cannot impose democracy in Africa: Ethiopian PM", AFP, 25 January, 2008.
  • I have never heard of any convincing reason as to why we should privatize land at this stage.
    • Part of PM Zenawi's controversial reply to Dr. Abdul Mejid Hussien, as quoted in Interview—“I have never heard of any convincing reason as to why we should privatize land”

The Reporter (Addis Ababa), 3 May 2000.

  • I am proud to be an Ethiopian. I am proud to be a part of that history.
    • Meles speaking to American intellectuals about Ethiopia and its history, as quoted in Harold G. Marcus, "A Breakfast Meeting with Prime Minister Meles", Michigan State University. 20 October, 1995.
  • We believe the problem between ourselves and Eritrea will have to be resolved through dialogue, but it takes two to tango.
    • On the border dispute with Eritrea, as quoted in "Troop massing designed to send message to Eritrea- Ethiopian PM". Sudan Tribune. 19 March 2005.

Quotes about Meles

  • 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.
    • Gordon Brown, as quoted by Mark Tran, "Ethiopia's Renaissance under Meles Zenawi tainted by Authoritarianism", The Guardian, Aug. 21, 2012.
  • A man of his generation—the generation that casts off foreign rule, or overthrows a bloody dictatorship—does not often turn out to be a model democrat. He put on a good act in the 1990s during the post-Berlin Wall euphoria, but his stupid war with Eritrea cost him domestic support, and then his real instincts took over. Awful decisions, especially when war with Eritrea began in 1998, cost thousands of lives. But on the life-and-death issue of creating a viable economy for his nation, he got it just about right, arguably saving millions of lives. If we want to avoid Kaplan’s world, other quasi-democratic states around the continent would do well to take note of Meles' victories as well as his mistakes.
    • Michael Moran, "The Man who saved Ethiopia", Slate, Aug. 21, 2012.
  • In 1991, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia teamed together to liberate their respective countries from the brutal Ethiopian dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Seven years later, Isaias and Meles subjected their own people to a bloody and useless border war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and served no purpose other than to distract the two citizenries from the terrible job the two dictators were doing in running Eritrea and Ethiopia.
    • David Wallechinsky, Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators (2006), p. 6
Wikipedia has an article about: