Tag Archives: cruel despot

Meles Zenawi: Pragmatic leader or cruel despot?

10 Aug

Adekeye Adebajo

Meles Zenawi, the cerebral ruler of Ethiopia for the last 21 years, is a man with many reputations. Celebrated by donors as a visionary philosopher-king who has brought development to his impoverished country of 75 million people, his domestic critics have condemned him as an iron-fisted dictator.

Meles, now 57, came to power in 1991 after his Tigray People’s Liberation Front waged a successful war, alongside the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, that toppled the dictatorship of the Soviet-backed Mengistu Haile Mariam.

The new leader strongly supported Eritrea’s independence in 1993, but within five years the former allies were fighting a bloody conflict that lasted between 1998 and 2000 and resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths.

Matters were not all peaceful at home either. In 2005, when the opposition won all 23 seats in Addis Ababa in parliamentary elections, the regime reacted harshly, killing 200 protesters and locking up 30,000 opponents. Some were later tried for treason.

Five years later, continued repression – including a clampdown on the media and foreign-funded NGOs, as well as a draconian anti-terrorism bill – combined with a divided opposition to ensure that his ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front won 99.6% of votes. More opposition arrests followed these polls.

Meles’ personal popularity is, however, hard to gauge in a country in which the press and civil society are closely monitored. He has pledged to step down in 2015, but broke a similar promise in 2010.

Read the full article from The Guardian

Transforming Ethiopia TE

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