The Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation has recently carried a piece about the late prime minister Meles Zenawi. The theme of the piece is that Meles' role in the political and security arenas put him at the heart of Africa's greatest leaders. Meles dedicated his life fighting for the stability of his country and the region.
In fact, according to the newspaper, the unsaid wisdom is that be it an absolute monarch, a sit-tight despot or a reformer on the seat of power in Addis Ababa, Ethio-Kenya relations will always sail on like a ship in calm waters.
Daily Nation stated that the young medical student who joined the guerrilla war against the Derg, the Marxist junta of Mengistu Haile-Mariam, in the 1970s as "Legesse" Zenawi returned triumphantly to Addis Ababa in 1991 as "Meles", a nom de guerre he adopted in the trenches in honour of a fallen compatriot.
Years in the bush as a revolutionary infused personal discipline, committed and principled leadership and a pan-African disposition into modern Ethiopia's third ruler who took power at 36 after the fall of Mengistu's regime, becoming Africa's youngest leader.
Twenty-one years later, the indelible marks of Meles' fine mind, firm persona and pragmatic traits are all over the canvas of the Ethiopian economy and society. Rightly eulogized as an economic reformer, Meles solicited and put foreign development aid to good use. Citing the World Bank, the paper mentioned that Ethiopia's GDP has grown by 10.6 per cent a year over the past decade, double Africa's average.
Child mortality has dropped by 40 per cent, and just under 30 per cent of Ethiopians are living in extreme poverty, those on less than a dollar a day, a quantum jump from 45 per cent when Meles took power.
Meles has left a diversified economy and laid the foundation for an industrial Ethiopia with new industries like floriculture, beverages, leather making, car assembly and infrastructure projects, including Africa's largest hydro-electric dams--Gibe III and the Grand Renaissance Dam. These economic gains at home have their corollary in a brand of "development diplomacy" Meles has pursued in Africa.
Consequently, Kenya and Ethiopia have grown stronger together as what political scientists tout as "regional hegemonies" or powerhouses in the Eastern Africa region along the lines of Nigeria and South Africa in West and Southern Africa regions, respectively, Daily Nation writes.
"Our joining in the East African community is long overdue," Meles told a Kenyan delegation early last year. He agreed to broaden the Ethio-Kenya Joint Commission from a military pact to socio-economic cooperation.
And on March 2 this year, Meles joined President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan to officially launch Africa's most ambitious project: a Sh1.5 trillion Lamu Port-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport project at the Lamu Port, with its main components as networks of roads, railways, an oil pipeline and airports.
In 2000, he, Meles, became the first Ethiopian ruler to allow multi-party elections and private press. The Paper noticed that in the 2010 parliamentary elections, his party won 99.6 per cent of the vote, virtually wiping out the opposition. Arguably, his record on Africa's political scene brings Meles into the pantheon of towering figures such as Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, Tanzania's Julius Nyerere and Senegal's Leopold Senghor.
Under Meles, Addis Ababa has become the home of a reformed African Union and firmly Africa's diplomatic capital. With Ethiopia as a member of the powerful AU Peace and Security Council and him as the chair of NEPAD and IGAD, Meles has been one of the architects of Africa's emerging peace, security and governance infrastructure.
Meanwhile, The Daily Monitor of Uganda writes that Meles had been instrumental in the war against insurgents in Somalia. He initiated fundamental policies and strategies for his country and the struggle to liberate Somalia from political turmoil.
Moreover, different world leaders have hailed the leadership of late Premier. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sir Leaf said Meles Zenawi was an "intellectual leader for the continent." UK Prime Minister David Cameron called him "an inspirational spokesman for Africa", who had lifted millions out of poverty. There have been evident economic and infrastructure reforms in the country. Yes, he had contributed so much economically in his 21-year reign.
According to the Daily Monitor, Meles' death has come as a shock and disappointment to many people across the continent.
Prime Minister Meles made great with regard to South Sudan, the Nile waters, Somalia, fight terrorism and effectively checkmating the regime of Eritrea. The Monitor indicated that Prime Minister Meles was a tough one, right from when he chose guns over books by abandoning medical school. "Nothing was going to stop the pursuit of his ideal of making Ethiopia great. Once on top in Addis, he did not stop."
The African Union also hailed Meles for his promotion of economic growth, as well as his role as peace-maker between Sudan and South Sudan and his support for the fight against Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shebab insurgents. "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."
European Commission Chief Jose Manuel Barroso said Meles "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."
President Kikwete of Tanzania said that 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.
Indeed, the people of Ethiopia in particular and the people of Africa in general are mourning the death of Prime Minister Meles because he was a brilliant Africa's son who dedicated his life time to the improvement and unity of its people.