Subscribe to Granta today

The Conflicted Legacy of Meles Zenawi


Meles Zenawi is dead. After weeks of speculation, the body of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has come home from a hospital to be buried in the country he led for nearly twenty years. I sit at my desk in New York City, trying to fathom what this means for the Ethiopian diaspora and for those still at home. As surely as I can go to Ethiopia and see the country’s stunning growth, I am aware of the rapidly shrinking freedoms for both foreign and national press in the country. Eight journalists, including Eskinder Nega, winner of the 2012 PEN Freedom to Write Award, still languish in prison. Meles is dead, I tell myself. I erase his name from the sentence, and imagine his grieving family. My sympathies go to them. But it is the name that adds weight and meaning; it is everything.

Meles Zenawi’s legacy is as complicated as the life he chose to live, under a name (Meles) that he took from a fallen comrade during He has both pushed Ethiopia forward and held her people down. I suspect I am not alone in teetering between these two sides. his days as a guerrilla fighter. The fact is that under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia witnessed unprecedented growth and became one of the stabilizing forces in the Horn of Africa. He worked to eradicate poverty and for seven years, nearly sixty per cent of the country’s total expenditures went to sectors that could help alleviate the problem. He has both pushed Ethiopia forward and held her people down. I suspect I am not alone in teetering between these two sides. But I’m bothered by this vacillation, by the necessity of thinking that one right can negate another.

As a writer, I feel compelled to uphold the ultimate legitimacy and importance of words, and of expression. As a daughter, a niece, a cousin, I want the safety of those back home. But more than their safety, I wish for them the opportunity to dream and to strive forward in the land of their birth.

When I imagine this for one young cousin, I envision her working in an Ethiopia that bustles with traffic, construction, the hum of shops and cafes and businesses. I see her walking through the streets and exchanging greetings, passing kiosks with newspapers that display censored headlines. It is 2015 and it is an election year. She will already know who will win, and when she goes home, she will know that Voice of America might be blacked out, as it has been before. She will not write about politics on her blog. She will not be a journalist. She will not follow her friends who want to protest for greater rights. But she will not do all of this in a larger home than her parents, wearing newer clothes than she had growing up, typing into a computer her father could have never afforded, watching the news as it rolls through the latest achievements in Ethiopia’s growth. She will be thankful for the opportunities she’s had, because they have been real and they have made a difference and they have been in large part because of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

And as Ethiopia prepares for new elections, she will pause, but it won’t be so hard to put aside the memory of protestors who claimed that election results in 2005 were rigged. And when I go back for a visit, we might walk down the road where I lived, in front of my grandfather’s house, and never speak of the twelve-year-old neighbour who was shot and killed in the wake of the 2005 post-election violence, not a word. Instead, we will link arms in the silence and go home. ■

Comments (28)

You need to create an account or log in to comment.

  1. Andres

    Mon Oct 13 05:52:50 BST 2014

    This is my first-time i visit the following. I found so many entertaining stuff inside your blog, especially it is discussion. From the a lot of comments on your own articles, I guess I will be not the only person having all the leisure here! Continue the good work. I have been meaning to write down something like this on my website and you also have given me an idea.I am extremely impressed using your writing abilities as well as with the format on your weblog. Is that it a paid subject matter or did an individual customize it by yourself? Anyway stay up the excellent high quality writing, it is uncommon to find out a nice blog in this way one today.. #

  2. Squinting Lion

    Sat Sep 01 20:41:19 BST 2012

    My two cents:

    Ethiopian people deserve more than what Meles has 'done for them'. The idea that we couldn't have done better than him (anyone would have done better than The Dergue) is preposterous.

    Anyone (however great his economic policies) who's been in power for over twenty years is a tyrant.

    Meles Apologist / Stockholm syndrome.

  3. galihadiputra

    Thu Oct 16 07:56:45 BST 2014

    ‘Lloyd? But whey di pickney is, eeh? Him is pure crosses. Di good Lord only know di trouble I seen.’ It was his mother’s voice. He stood and turned to meet her. ‘You waan get sick, pickney? Out here inna di pourin rain a nighttime?’ She stood under the brightly coloured umbrella someone had left on the bus. ‘Come. You grandfadda be aaright. You tink di sea can kill him?’ Lloyd walked towards his mother and the shelter of the umbrella and together, they walked through the dark streets of Kingston, the dirty rain water sweeping the streets, masking the smell of sewage, taking the garbage of the city into the sea. Lloyd heard his grandfather’s voice in his mind: I come from a line of fishermen. #

  4. saderf

    Tue Oct 07 18:02:09 BST 2014

    These kinds of very helpful write-up. Incredibly intriguing you only read this post. I'd really like every single child appreciate it on your attempts you needed devised for producing that good write-up.

  5. magancalvin

    Tue Jul 15 09:15:57 BST 2014

    his is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the excellent work.

  6. Apa Gampong

    Fri Oct 24 09:33:13 BST 2014

    Everthing I read here is extremely useful or Interesting, I like this post because I think it is good. Granta is always be my favourite

  7. alikhan_095

    Thu Jun 05 22:53:52 BST 2014

    I was just browsing through the internet looking for some information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more.

  8. baretfytuk

    Wed Jun 18 21:41:51 BST 2014

    Albenza is administrated in pill form - - for illness with the following worms: dog tapeworm, hookworms, roundworms, whipworm, trichinae, fox tapeworm. Albendazole is involved with the metabolic process of parasites, in which the drug depresss the growth of equalization proteins and the absorption of glucose in the cell. Thus the helminth missing biotic substances so that it perishes in the intestine. If you omit a dose of Albendazole and are using it carefully, take it f.a.c.. If it is almost time for your next dispense, pass the missed portion and regain to your ordinary dosage scheme. Do not administer 2 doses at once. Albenza also has been shown to depress the enzyme fumarate reductase, which is worm-specific. This effect may be considered non-critical to the result on the microtubules due to the reduced intake of glucose. Store Albendazole at conventional temperature, 20 and 25 degrees C. Do not apply beside warm up, wet and light. Keep in a covered, light-resistant crisper. Preserve Albenza out of the reach of children and pets.

  9. alikhan_095

    Mon Jul 07 19:54:08 BST 2014

    Very informative post ! There is a lot of information here that can help any business get started with a successful social networking campaign !

  10. fanta

    Mon Oct 06 10:54:25 BST 2014

    These kinds of very helpful write-up. Incredibly intriguing you only read this post. I'd really like every single child appreciate it on your attempts you needed devised for producing that good write-up.

  11. Apa Gampong

    Sat Oct 25 11:32:11 BST 2014

  12. alikhan_095

    Mon Jun 16 15:40:41 BST 2014

    I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job !

  13. awengcelweng

    Thu Oct 02 18:17:06 BST 2014

    The Girlfriend Activation System: Christian H. Reveals His Little-Known Step-By-Step System Even Dorky, Awkward, And Ugly Guys Whose Claim To Fame Is Being "Horrible With Women" Are Using To Meet, Attract, And Ultimately Date Beautiful, Loyal, And Committed Girlfriends. Click here to visit Christian's official Girlfriend Activation System website

  14. magancalvin

    Mon Jul 14 09:15:40 BST 2014

    I came onto your blog while focusing just slightly submits. Nice strategy for next, I will be bookmarking at once seize your complete rises

  15. alikhan_095

    Tue Jul 01 12:22:06 BST 2014

    I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!

  16. 3

    Mon Oct 13 13:23:57 BST 2014

    These kinds of very helpful write-up. Incredibly intriguing you only read this post. I'd really like every single child appreciate it on your attempts you needed devised for producing that good write-up.


    Fri Oct 31 13:09:59 GMT 2014

    Traditional innerspring mattresses which feel mushy sufficient to be comfy simply aren't able to providing the mandatory assist for facet sleepers.


    Fri Oct 31 13:10:48 GMT 2014

    In case you are tired of looking out, then learn on to search out the most effective memory foam mattresses. Buying a mattress is an enormous investment, with many mattresses costing the 1000's of dollars.