Legacy of African Leaders: Meles Zenawi Versus Nelson Mandela by Dula

December 16th, 2013 Print Print Email Email

Over 100 heads of states including Obama and Castro were present for Mandela’s funeral service, while a handful of African leaders like Al-Bashir of Sudan, Museveni of Uganda were present for Meles’ funeral. Mandela state funeral appeared more genuine, spontaneous, full of love and celebration unlike that of Zenawi which was shrouded with secrecy (cause of death still unknown) and appeared orchestrated and staged managed by the party. Mandela stands out in many ways.

While Mandela fought to end Bastustanization and oppression in South Africa, Zenawi on the other hand was the architect of Bastustanization in Ethiopia driving schism and wedges among Ethiopians.

Mandela gave up power peacefully, while Zenawi did everything in his power to keep it including voiding election, jailing opposition leaders, and killing peaceful demonstrators against rigged election.

Mandela brought very diverse people together, while Zenawi broke the long standing unity and nationalism that made Ethiopia unique and that withstood Western colonialism into a breaking point.

A writer for Aljazeera expressed Meles’s legacy as follows ” The late Meles Zenawi ……practically reduced Ethiopia into a landlocked, bantustanized, and impoverished country thanks to his Stalinist organization in the name of TPLF. “ Aljazeera, December 9, 2013 “Ethiopia and Eritrea: Brothers at ware no more” Ethiopia and Eritrea: Brother’s at War
The World and South Africans will dearly miss Mandela, I am not sure that will be said of Meles by those who really know his true legacy.

Zenawi was given bigger than life farewell at the end by his supporters and some citizens, despite his tarnished legacy. By force or by volition, Ethiopians throughout the country were engaged in praising, wailing, and crying for Zenawi, The wailing and the crying for Meles was primarily due to the fact that most dictators become father figures for the majority of the people, especially for the youth, with the help of the state controlled media, where such leaders are lionized on a daily basis. So anxiety and fear set in because a vacuum is created by the death of a dictator in Ethiopia or North Korea. This is primarily true when the state controls the media; nobody knows the true state of affairs in the country.

For a country as poor as Ethiopia, the parade, the display and the ceremony for Zenawi was excessive. The attempt was to rebrand, redefine and humanize Zenawi to justify continued control by the ruling party. Zenawi was praised for everything in the world, but not for his wrongs, such as for genocide he committed, for the war he waged to make Ethiopia landlocked, for creating ethnic gerrymandering or for excessive control of the economy by his ethnic party and his cronies.

Though no dictator is lionized after death to the extent Zenawi was, however, thanks to re-branding by a well organized party, TPLF, Zenawi’s profile looked better in death than in life. Those who might have expected the TPLF machine to self-destruct after the passing of Zenawi should have a second thought because the machine is highly organized, and exceedingly efficient in manipulating the Ethiopian state in any shape or form it wishes. In a manner similar to a cult, the regime has finessed how to manipulate the media and get the people organized to behave accordingly. A farewell of such depth, organization, fanfare is only possible under a dictatorial regime.

Zenawi was rebranded as a great leader instead of an ethnic or Marxist dictator, as the opposition has often called him. So the idea of worrying about ones legacy doing the right thing may go out the window provided if one has a well organized party like Meles did. Overall, in life or death, Meles or his party succeeded in hoodwinking many people in Ethiopia and around the world by creating a different persona.

For three months, the system in Ethiopia was completely shut, no business license was issued, even no wedding ceremonies were held, millions of dollars was spent to materialize Zenawi’s after-life grandiose with burst out of a 21-gun salute. Most leaders in his shoe, such as Benito Mussolini, Nikita Khrushchev, or Joseph Stalin, did not get such honorable departure.

During his reign, Zenawi never met ordinary citizens in public; never traveled without massive security, and if he did, streets were closed, and he was completely isolated from public view. However, in death, he was lionized by ordinary people that he tried to shun for security reasons.

In Ethiopia most people cannot afford Aslekash or hired help to instigate crying or mourning for the dead. However, the rich, kings and dictators, can afford to hire such people, as it appears Zenawi benefited from such practice where hundreds of people were employed to show case his invented popularity to foreigners and Ethiopians. Would this manufactured and manipulated ceremony dissipate as the public and the world knows the real legacy of Zenawi?
Zenawi’s Ethiopia is a landlocked and impoverished country. At last the world gets a chance to see its true state of affairs, world leaders who praised Meles without checking the facts will be put to shame.

Innocent students were massacred at Addis Abeba University for opposing the secession of Eritrea from Ethiopia; hundreds of people were killed in the aftermath of the 2005 election, and hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned during the same period. During the last 22 years, hundreds of other innocent people were killed in other parts of the country due to ethnic policy of the regime, and the recent killing of Ethiopian Muslims for asking their freedom to worship without government interference has to be also mentioned.

Although Ethiopians throughout the Diaspora held a memorial service for the thousands of victims of Meles Zenawi, but they were given no media coverage, while Zenawi was memorialized in grand scale for weeks by his party and those who benefited during his 22 years of rule. The grand finale for Meles was beyond expectation and more than deserved by a leader who used force to take power and to stay in power.

Zenawi ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist and bloody hand. According to Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopia’s citizens are unable to speak freely, organize political activities, and challenge their government’s policies – through peaceful protest, voting, or publishing their views – without fear of reprisal.” Despite these abhorrent statistics, and dire economic conditions for two (2) decades, resembling other dictatorial regimes such as North Korea or China, Meles Zenawi dared to claim that he received 99.6% of the vote in the last fake election.

Zenawi was a dictator par excellence in applying the Machiavellian system of divide and rule. Unlike other dictators, he carved out a positive image abroad by partnering with top PR firms, opportunistic and ill-informed Americans, despite being highly-detested at home and abroad by the majority of Ethiopians. Like other dictators, he controlled the army, the police, 100% of the land mass, industry, and denied Ethiopians access to technology, thus forcing the greater number of Ethiopians to eke out a meager living, often with the help of Western food aid or flee the country to places like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, South Africa and other places despite facing real and present danger as refugees.

So why is Zenawi memorialized? Like North Korea, his supporters want to maintain the current system by giving one of the bloodiest dictators a facelift and by rebranding him as a great leader. By giving him a humane face, his supporters believe that they can justify staying in power for years to carry the torch of their great leader.

Zenawi’s critics were jailed, killed or chased out of the country. Ethiopia has more journalists exiled or in prison than any country according to New York-based Human Rights Foundation. In addition, Ethiopia was found to be one of the failed states following countries like Somalia, Chad, and ranks 174 out of 180 countries in terms of human development index.
Given these facts, Zenawi should be remembered just as another dictator, except he was exceptionally good in hoodwinking the world to the contrary. In the meantime, he left Ethiopia totally unprepared and desperately behind the curve in access to technology, human and economic development.

In the end Zenawi was just a tyrant beyond comparison who employed voodoo economics to exaggerate his economic achievement, denied Ethiopians their basic freedom, rigged elections, and humiliated and desecrated their religion, history, identity and humanity.

All said and done, the West has to bear some responsibility for piling praises on a dictator without unveiling his dark secret, genocide in Gambella, cyber jamming, and the strangulation and evisceration of the Ethiopian media, intellectuals, as well as monopolizing the economy by his clan.
At the end, the world may find out that Zenawi may have hoodwinked the West, eviscerated the Ethiopian economy, it nationalism, and its institutions. If all this is true, unlike Mandela, Zenawi will eventually be remembered as nothing but a charlatan

The article was based on “Legacy of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia (1991-2012) by the same author.

  1. Alem
    | #1

    I am surprised the writer could contemplate mentioning the name Meles alongside Mandela; it is almost sacrilegious. The only thing the two share is the letter “M.”

  2. aha
    | #2

    Be that as it may. TPLF/eprdf as a political model and TPLF as the architect of the constitution with the ideologies of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalitatarianism and /or state capitalism and alignment of parties along ethnic agenda rather than national agenda are the root causes to ethnic rule and ethnic dictatorship minority and or majority along with the absence of independent branches of government and individual freedom, liberty and equality. TPLF/eprdf being a conglomerate of ex-liberation fronts, which stood against oppression of nations and nationalities by the previous regimes enforce the constitution of divide and rule policy and implement the exploitation, economic and political strangle hold of the countries resources by TPLF/political, TPLF/EFFORT, TPLF affiliated enterprises, cadres and foreign corporations by its security, federal polices and military forces and killil administrators. From your vantage points, with Mederk/OPDM/EFDF/fdre, being a mirror image of TPLF/eprdf, there would have been no chance of dislodging TPLF/eprdf completely other than to form a bicameral chamber of parliament with sizeable seats for medrek with ethnic agenda. Had it not pre-empted Mederek it would have been De Javu pre 1997. TPLF/eprdf is there to maintain the above mentioned status quo to stay in power with its attribute of perpetrating humanitarian, economic, political and environmental crises in the name of the ideologies of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalitarianism and or state capitalism built into the constitution and the flag in contrast to those engaged in restoring Ethiopian Nationalism, individual freedom and the sovereignty of Ethiopia to put in place a one nation state of federated original provinces of assorted ethnic groups to establish a truly democratic government free of ethnic federalism and ethnic nationalism contributing to the negative forces of disintegration of Ethiopia.

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    Wow…Dula… Your name says it. You are a dula and be a dula that will be used for a donkey. No comment…worthless piece of shit

  4. chernet
    | #4


  5. Anonymous
    | #5

    Zenawi was not a tyrant. Zenawi was one of the best Ethiopian leaders. He did not exaggerated his economic achievement, denied Ethiopians their basic freedom. We Ethiopians liked Meles very much. You must be one of those Ethiopian haters to be able to talk like this on the web. Are you Eritrean? If so why don’t you talk about your shit Esayas. Are you Ethiopian hater shit why don’t you go to school and learn something and work for your country? Ethiopia and Ethiopians are doing well. Eat your heart out!! Why don’t you leave alone Ethiopia?

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    what is the point? how do you compare light with darkness, orange with apples, lion with cats, Mandela with Zenwai? that is not possible, please!

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    I am not convinced that this is a a legitimate comparison. Meles might have had defects (which all of do including the writer) but he also undoubtedly contributed to the undeniable and visible development in Ethiopia. Our country is not a failed State and the writer is too blind to compare it with the countries he listed. While you and I may not have the right to know the cause of the Meles’s, I do not think he died of age; rather aggravated by stress and over work. Let’s be rational and put some nice words while blaming a late PM ….

  8. Kassahun
    | #8

    What is Mandella for me. Nothing. But I admire tewodraos Alula and Meles. In fact Meles is far better intelligent and gifted politician than Mandella.

  9. Dawi
    | #9

    Dula said:

    [[..Mandela brought very diverse people together, while Zenawi broke the long standing unity and nationalism that made Ethiopia unique and that withstood Western colonialism into a breaking point..]].

    One may disagree with Meles’ thesis or argue that he failed to implement it properly. But without question “it represents a serious attempt to develop, and apply, an authentically African philosophy of the goals and strategies of development.” “Meles inverted Kissinger’s dictum that holding office consumes intellectual capital rather than creating it. He was always learning, reading, debating, and writing, and while he never abandoned the fundamental principles forged in the field, his views evolved greatly”.

    So just for one, the re-inventing of Ethiopian nationalism & unity today with a Federal system can not just be ignored as non existent as Dula seems to be doing in his write up.

    Meles’s evolved and reached to the conclusion that his starting point was that Ethiopia and Africa in general as a whole “lacked comparative advantage in any productive field’. He laid out his case in one discussion that ‘African workers produce textiles at nine times the price of the Chinese.’ Similarly, African foodstuffs could not compete in international markets. ‘In these circumstances, the best way to make money is through rent: natural resource rent, aid rent, policy rent. So the private sector will be rent-seeking not value creating, it will go for the easy way and make money through rent.’ In reaction to this, Ethiopia postponed private land ownership and kept state control of the financial sector and telecoms.

    The ‘developmental state’ should, he argued, be obsessed with value creation, making accelerated and broad-based growth a matter of national survival. If Ethiopia could sustain its growth levels – which have been running at close to 10 percent per annum for most of the last decade – it could achieve middle-income status and escape from its trap.

    On the other hand, there is little to show of the coming to power of Mandela/ANC or a path designed to overcome the deficiencies in economic & social gains for the ordinary black person; most of them are poorer than they were under apartheid. Blacks constitute 80 % of South Africa. 48% of black are unemployed; 33 million live in poverty.

    It is sad but, SA is probably the most unequal society in the world today.

  10. Arega
    | #10

    As humans, both have strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, the burial ceremony for Meles and Mandela were both good.

    “Ethiopia was found to be one of the failed states following countries like Somalia, Chad, and ranks 174 out of 180 countries in terms of human development index”.

    Are we not better than before? be fair,

  11. Mulualem Girum
    | #11

    Yeah, though I do agree with all the lines of argument, I still’d be extremely troubled by such intention of unacceptable comparison. Please let us not disturb Madiba from a long and eternal rest that he really do deserve!

  12. Observer
    | #12

    It is an insult for Mandela and for the whole world to compare the 2 individuals in whatever way you take it. How does one think of a brutal petty gang leader in the same mind that claims to understand a giant of the world who is admired and respected by the whole human race? Comparing the incomparable… ? This is too shallow and sad. Moreover, the information the author presented as the reaction of Ethiopians to the death of Meles is largely false. most people were forced to go out pretend as though they were sad, without their will. If fact, many were relieved and pleased with his death. One would then question the knowledge or intention of the author too.

    Thank you.

  13. Selam
    | #13

    Meles Zenawi was a visionary leader. He delivered Ethiopian people from brutal (reshagn) Derg. He knew what was our enemy which is poverty. Ethiopian people could not figured out how to get out from poverty. He showed us how and right now we are slowly going to the right direction. We are not hungry of power nor interested in politics. We are not interested who lead Ethiopia Tegri, Amara, or Oromo. But Ethiopian people are hungry of food and basic necessities. For the last hundred years no leader provided basic infrastructure for Ethiopia.

  14. Dawi
    | #14

    Another point on Dula statement came to my mind:

    [[..Zenawi broke the long standing unity and nationalism that made Ethiopia unique and that withstood Western colonialism into a breaking point...]].

    Addis Fortune wrote yesterday a title. “Ethiopia: Like the Adwa Victory, the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Will Be Venerated for Generations”. This title reminded me of some things folks like Dula refuse to acknowledge that Meles was no less Ethiopian nationalist than former leaders before him. Off course how it was done is not in a typical style.

    Yes we are the “An un-colonized, proud people with an amazing ancient civilization have become the textbook example of famine and hunger. And, nothing symbolized this national humiliation more quintessentially than our inability to utilize our great river we call Abay-Great in geez! Conquering Abay had been more difficult for Ethiopians than conquering European colonizers. Defeating Egypt with Abay had been more difficult than defeating Egypt on battle fields.”

    Why not recognize what Meles showed in his grand vision? Which was the love for father land as symbolized in our Grand nationalist projects, typical instruments that is used to show national prides by of all great nations of the world. One such instrument was the GRD.

    The loss of GRD project would mean much more than the loss of 6000 MW electric supply or over 2 million dollars a day income for country. Hence, anyone that threatens the GRD project, as was reminded by Meles, such threat would mean an active invasion and ” no one who has tried that has lived to tell the story”.

    If that was not Ethiopian nationalism what is it then???

  15. ema
    | #15

    Meles was the true son of Africa rather than the Mandela. May be the true history of mandela coming soon. Look at Mugabe he is the the beloved president of Zimbabwe and Africa. What is doing Mandela?
    Yap he is in prison for 27 years
    Make a puppet black government
    Give south Africa to a new economy colony
    Bla bla.
    Meles was the beloved shining star sun of Africa

  16. Selam
    | #16

    Your main argument was that there were no freedom of expression in Ethiopia!. But what did you do to me? You didn’t even let me express my small opinion. Instead you gave me a name such as I am weyane or Shaba. I am not any of them. I am peace loving individual. I can imagine if you get a power,what would you do to our country. The answer is obvious. But Ethiopian people especially the new generation are not foolish. By the way we thought you are the friend of shabia. What are those Ginbot Seven doing in Asmara?

  17. Anonymous
    | #17

    Excellent Alem, it is like comparing an angel with the devil.

  18. Samson
    | #18

    What about the letter “E” and the letter “L”. Don’t be discriminatory. What did the poor “E & L” to you? =:(

  19. Zerayakob Yared
    | #19

    የራሳችንን ብዙዎች የሜዳ እና የህሊና ጀግኖችን (አሉላዎች/አቡነ ጴጥሮሶችን) ደጋግመን ለማፍራት ህሊናችንን እናፅዳ እንጂ, እባካችሁን (እባካችንን) የማንደላ ታዋቂነት “የላሊበላ ሰርገኞች” አንሁን……………….!

    በማንኛውም መልኩ ደግሞ ያንን ጭንጋፍ የጉሊት ቁማርተኛን ከማንደላ ስም ጎን ማስፈር እንደ ሃጥያተኛ ያስመዘግባል::
    ወዲ ዜናዊ ከነ Noriega’ም በታች ነው:: ምክኒያቱሳ ቢባል, በፈራጆቻቸው የፍርድ ውሳኔ መሰረት ወዲ ዜናዊ ከመ ቅፅበት ከምድሪቱ እንዲወገድ ሲፈረድበት እነ ኖርየጋ ግን በእስር እንዲቀጡ ተፈርዶባቸዋል::

  20. Blogger
    | #20

    How can someone compare apples and oranges? Mandela and Meles comparisons? How can someone put all the effort and time to compare things that are not comparable and still considers himself as a writer with a brain? The writer doesn’t know where to stop the nonesense. Mandela was a man that fought inequality which his ideologies arised from Gandhi and Martin Luther king. Mandela achieved his goals after 70+ years. On the other hand, Meles was a dynamic leader that died untimely. Under his leadership the country has prospered and he has fought poverty head on to eradicate it once and for all.

    Trying to use any current world affairs for the purpose of satisfying your own personal ideologies is within your right. As the so called countries with real democracy say “everyone is entitled to an opinion”. The countries with so called real democracy such as the states are trying to jail people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. and yet, when Ethiopia jails journalist that break the law they are considered as political prisoners by the likes of you. Ethiopia has never bowed down to an external force and will never do so.

  21. bale
    | #21

    Mandela stay in prison more than meles stays in power;however,mandela stays in power just one term(four years) while meles rules even in the death bed.Mandela forgive his killers for real and work for recocilation utill he dies but melese talks always about our difference than our communality. Mandela loves Ethiopian history and appreciate Ethiopia’s rule to african strugle but Melese delibrately disregard other Ethiopian role except his own. Mandela transformational and his legacy lives forever,as Obama said,”Mandela belongs to the ages”,but Melese took the nation back to the “zemene mesafent” ere where we see ourself separate from the others and his legacy evaporated even a year time leave alone belonges to the ages. I wish meles had been seen,touched and accompanied by ordinary the people alive than dead but the truth is his photo entered the national stedium but his body always fear real croweds!

  22. Anonymous
    | #22

    The writer meant well, but there is no comparison between a poisonous dead rat and an Elephant. The heartless, the remorseless, the professional thief, the hate-filled racist and the bloody-hand murderer evil tyrant Meles and his supporters should only be compared with subhumans like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mussolini, Idi Amin Dada and their supporters. May Mandela RIP and tyrant Meles burn in Hell for eternity.

  23. Anonymous
    | #23

    Comparing the brutal dictator Meles with Mandela is comparing a mass murderer to Mother Theresa.
    To the pathetic laughable heartless woyanes who claim to be Christians, and at the same time, give undying support to master manipulators, liars, looters, abusers, torturers, and the killers of innocent people: YOU MUST KNOW THAT ONE CANNOT SERVE TWO MASTERS. YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE EITHER THE SOURCE OF HATE, LUCIFER OR THE SOURCE OF LOVE, COMPASSION AND KINDNESS, GOD. YOU IDIOTS DO NOT EVEN REALIZE THAT YOU CAN NOT FOOL GOD. CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT LOVE, COMPASSION AND KINDNESS IS MEANINGLESS. READ 1 CORINTHIANS 13.

  24. entiktik
    | #24

    Meles Zenawi was quite sure that the only way to escape from justice was that he prayed for his fast exit to death. Death shall never exempt Meles Zenawi from standing before justice; well, dead or alive Meles shall for sure stand trial. In terms of committing crimes and making sins there is absolutely no comparison to him; therefore, there is big difference between him and any other criminals who have been existing on this earth and shall never be one today and in the future like Meles, the criminal.

    The shark-tongued banda, Meles Zenawi proved to be deadly when you see the unending suffering of his victims in thousands and thousands. We know where and when Meles Zenawi his grave, although the system that he built and ran will eventually be demolished over his grave. It is fair to compare Meles Zenawi and Sibhat Nega with Joseph Stalin and Hitler because there is micro difference between them. Yes, president Mengistu fought tooth and nail against bandas and fascist woyanes just to prevent what is happening in Ethiopia today, in fact, right at this moment.

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