Meles Zenawi's Biography

Biography of Meles Zenawi

Name: Meles Zenawi
In Power: 1991-2012 (21 years)
DOB: May 8, 1955 in Adwa, Northern Ethiopia
Died: August 20, 2012 (57) in Brussels, Belgium
Wife: Azeb Mesfin
Children: Three: Semhal, Senay, and Marda
Religion: Orthodox Christian
Height: 5'4"

Picture of Meles Zenawi as a child in 1962
Early Life - 1955-1974

Meles Zenawi was born Legesse Zenawi on May 8, 1955 in Adwa, Ethiopia[1]. He was the youngest child of three siblings, who was born to a Tigrayan father named Zenawi Asresu and an Eritrean mother named Alemash Gebreleul. He attended the Queen of Sheba elementary school in Adwa and went on to attend the prestigious General Wingate Highschool in Addis Ababa. After graduating, Meles attended the University of Addis Ababa as a medical student. He studied medicine for two years before dropping out in 1974 to join the Tigrayan National Organization (TLO), the forerunner of  Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).

As a Rebel fighter under TPLF - 1974-1991

In 1974, after a Tigrayan nationalist named Meles Tekle was killed by the Derg (an Ethiopian regime in power from 1974-1991), Legesse Zenawi changed his first name to Meles in honor of him. When the TPLF became established on Feburary 19, 1974, Meles served as a low-level foot soldier within the the group between 1975-1979. From 1979-1983, Meles became part of the TPLF's Central Committee and went on to serve in the Executive Committee from 1983-1989. From 1989-1991 Meles became the chairman of TPLF and of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), an umbrella political group dominated and controlled by TPLF.

In power of Ethiopia - 1991-Present 

Meles Zenawi at Addis Ababa University in 1972
After Mengistu Haile Mariam's rule came to an end in 1991, Meles was appointed the president of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia during a July 1-5 conference for Peace and Democracy. In 1995, the Council of Representatives, whom Meles was also the chairman of, elected him for a five year term to become Ethiopia's first prime Minsister and reelected him again in 2000 for another five year term.

Election Fraud

In 2005, Meles allowed Ethiopia's first elections to be held, to which western observers stated it did not meet international standards. After Meles declared victory, massive protests erupted throughout the capital over election fraud. As a result,  Meles ordered a heavy-handed crackdown where 193 protesters were shot and killed and another 763 were injured. Meles' security forces apprehended and detained 30,000-50,000 civilians without charge and arrested 131 senior opposition, civil society, and journalist on political charges ranging from "outrages against the constitution," to "treason," to "attempted genocide."

In 2010, Meles held elections again, this time with severe restrictions for opposition members and Ethiopian citizens. Meles declared his EPRDF party won over 99.6 percent of the parliamentary seats, to which international observers critisized Meles for holding an unfair elections that fell below international standards.

His death

On August 20, 2012, Meles Zenawi died at a Brussels hospital from an unspecified illness. His handpicked Deputy Prime Minister was sworn in as acting Prime Minister.

Critics and supporters

Critics of Meles describe him as ruthless tyrant who has conducted massive human rights abuses, including ordering the deaths of thousands of citizens, extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and using food aid as a political tool. Supporters of Meles argue he has brought some progress to Ethiopia, such as building infrastructure and improving health services.

Meles' Family Life

Meles Zenawi is married to Azeb Mesfin, who was a former rank-and-file member of  the TPLF. Together, they've been married for 25 years and have three children: Semhal, Senay, and Marda. Azeb has a well established political career within Ethiopia and is head of many Mega Corporations that has gained her the unfaltering nickname of "Queen Mega".

Interesting information about Meles Zenawi.

In 1995, Meles completed his MBA from London's Open University.
In 1985, Meles wrote a book titled: The Eritrean Struggle: from Where to Where? - a scathing book about Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF) and Eritrea.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi 
Meles Zenawi's wife Azeb Mesfin (Left)

Construction underway in Addis Ababa for AdCSI Building

 Construction underway in Addis Ababa for AdCSI Building

A new building is under construction in Addis Ababa's Piazza's district. The eight-story project is being funded by Addis Credit and Saving Institution (AdCSI), a local financial institution that will use this building as their new head quarters. With a price tag of $8 million dollars, this project is expected to be completed by mid-2012.

Unlike most developments going around Addis Ababa, this building will not have the tasteless glass-and-steel façades that dominate a building's exterior appearance, something Addis citizens have grown accustom to. It also does not neglect the importance of sidewalks and landscaping, which many Ethiopian construction firms seem to neglect. It will be interesting to see how this building will harmonize with its environment, considering it's being built in the Piazza district, an area completely dominated by 1930's Italian architecture.

Addis Ababa's Piazza district was originally built by the Italians during their occupation between 1936-1941. It features some art-deco buildings, but most buildings have been neglected and are in poor shape. The Government plans on demolishing much of Piazza's Italian-era development for newer ones.

AdCSI Building Final Design - (Photo: AdCSI)
Progress of AdCSI Building - (Photo: Yoniii)

Design of IT Incubation Center for Addis Ababa

Construction Design of IT Incubation Centre for Addis Ababa

The Ethiopian Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA) has contacted the Indian-based construction firm Voyants Solutions Private Limited (VSPL) to develop Ethiopia's first IT hub. A 200 Ha plot of land has been selected around Addis International Airport to develop this project. Construction is set to commence within late December and will be funded by the Ethiopian Government and the World Bank.

Government restrictions hinder ICT growth in Ethiopia

Ethiopia's ICT sector is heavily underdeveloped. While Government Officials have access to unlimited broadband connections, just 0.5% of Ethiopian citizens have access to the internet. In comparison, neighboring Kenya has a 9.7% penetration rate, while the Sudan has a 9.3% penetration rate. Even Somalia, which hasn't had a functioning Government since 1991 has a 1.1% penetration rate. So there's a severe Government imposed institutional monopoly of Ethiopia's ICT sector that's hindering it from developing to its full potential.

Even for Ethiopian citizens that can afford access, they are met with slow speeds, severe internet censorship and monitoring by Government Officials. Despite the many hurdles the Ethiopian regime puts in place,  it is very much essential the Government starts creating a robust ICT industry and stops restricting the ICT sector for political reasons. By developing this field, Ethiopia helps strengthen its economic dynamism and as well as enhance its socio-economic development that will open up new opportunities for its citizens.

According to Government data, a little over 4,000km of fiber optic cables exist in Ethiopia. Ethiopia also has an ambitious plan of creating 24,000km of fiber optic network by 2018. Moreover, the Government says it will put in place 3G service to improve the speeds of internet by 2013. All these signs, including with creating an IT hub are promising, however, the fundamental problem with Ethiopia's ICT industry is the severe Government restrictions and its monopoly over this sector. Ethiopia should allow private businesses independent of the Government to compete, which will bring competitiveness and drive the prices down to make it more affordable for the average citizen.