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)