Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, passed away on August 20th. .He had been Prime Minister of Ethiopia since 1995. He was the chairman of the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front, and Chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (ERPDF).

Leading the EPRDF to victory over the military dictatorship in 1991, he was President of Ethiopia from 1991 to 1995, and became Prime Minister following the first general election that year. As President and then as Prime Minister, his overnment was responsible for introducing a new Federal Constitution, based on the Nations, Nationalities and People’s of Ethiopia, and a multi-party political system, as well as presiding over the introduction of the private press in Ethiopia and of an economic system which produced steady economic growth in the last decade and introduced safety net programs which have produced several victories in the war on poverty.

Meles Zenawi was born Legesse Zenawi on May 8th 1955 in Adwa in what is now the Tigrai Regional State. Educated first at the Queen of Sheba School, he was chosen as a scholar of the General Wingate School in Addis Ababa in 1968, moving on to Haile Selassie 1st (now Addis Ababa) University in 1972. A pre-medical student, he dropped out of the university at the age of 19, to join the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which was set up when the student Tigraean National Organization decided to launch armed struggle against the military dictatorship, the Derg, in February 1975. 

He then took the nom du guerre of Meles in memory of Meles Tekle a student activist killed by the Derg. A little over a year after joining the organization he became an alternate member of the Central Committee and a full member in 1979. What contemporaries described as “his immense intelligence, political acumen, extraordinary command of languages (Tigrinya, Amharic and English), and rhetorical brilliance” rapidly brought him to prominence in the Front.

He was chosen to head the TPLF’s cadre school set up in 1983 at the TPLF’s Second Organizational Conference and elected to the Executive Committee. He was subsequently elected head of both the TPLF and of the MLLT, and he became the first chairman of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) when it was set up in 1989.

After the ERPDF swept into Addis Ababa in May 1991 and the military dictatorship collapsed, Meles, as Chairman of the EPRDF, became President of the Transitional Government and Chairman of the Council of Representatives, the legislative body of the transitional government until 1995. In 1995 after the first elections organized under the new Federal Constitution drawn up in 1994 and promulgated in 1995, he became Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The introduction of federalism created nine regional states with their own  Meles Zenawi (1955-2012), President and Prime Minister of Ethiopia, 1991-2012 parliaments and provided the nations, nationalities and people’s in the country with their first opportunity to govern their own areas.