Addis Ababa, 2 September 2012
Your excellency Hailemariam Desalegn
Family of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; Mrs. Azeb Mesfin and the children
Excellencies Heads of State and Government
Leaders of Ethiopia
Brothers and sisters of this great nation of Ethiopia
We join you in mourning and paying tribute to a great man, a great son of Ethiopia who is also ours as a continent. But we also celebrate his rich life that has touched millions of people in Africa and across the world. His was a life of immense courage, vision and enterprise which he devoted to the advancement of his fellow citizens in this country and across Africa. We gather here to recognise his remarkable achievements that have made us all proud – Ethiopians, Africans and beyond.
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I say this, not simply to praise him because he is no longer with us, but from the knowledge of, and experience with him as a friend, a comrade, a leader, a visionary and gallant fighter for freedom. He was a man of such high calibre, rare talent and selflessness that we all feel the magnitude of the gap he has left.
The Late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi did not court greatness. He led a humble and simple but very meaningful life. He was an unassuming person – but his sharp intellect and tremendous courage to face any kind of challenge made him a formidable presence. He had the capacity to grasp and cut through complex issues and move forward. It is these qualities that he used to lead the charge in the transformation of his country and that of our continent – restoring the dignity of Ethiopians and Africans as a whole.
Friend and foe alike recognised and respected Meles as a man of strong convictions, principles and long term vision. Where some could have been compromised for short term profit or gains, or easily succumbed to pressures, he was steadfast and always took a definite stand on issues of right and wrong. And more often than not, he was on the side of right.
Prime Minister Meles was uncompromising where his people’s interests were concerned. He was, however not rigid. He recognised the value of new ideas, of adapting practice to circumstance and innovation in the socio-economic transformation of his country.
For all of these, he was sometimes misunderstood, not because he was wrong, but because he was ahead of many in these matters.
Yet we can all see the remarkable economic growth and surge in wellbeing of Ethiopians that has been achieved in a relatively short time.
For Meles, the benefits of freedom and prosperity were best if shared with other African countries – and he practised it. The people of Rwanda will always remember with immense gratitude the aid he and the people of Ethiopia gave our country in the time of need – the immediate aftermath of the genocide. Ethiopia did this even when Ethiopia had just started its own transition.
Meles led from the front with other leaders in working for the stability of this region, in mediating in such places as Sudan and Somalia. As in everything he did, he spared no effort and did not shy away from taking tough but right decisions to bring peace and security to our region.
As a person, Meles was a serious man. But he combined this with a very good sense of humour and a sense of good judgement. He was a man of substance and dignity, an irreplaceable voice for humanity.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s legacy has deep roots in the rich heritage of independence and dignity that this great nation of Ethiopia has inspired on our continent. He was a true heir and fierce champion of that tradition and sought to share it with the rest of Africa. He was a very able voice for Africa in leading NEPAD, Climate change, agriculture and food security, to mention but a few.
This is the friend, the colleague, I knew, I worked with, the man with whom I shared so many views and the person I will always remember.
Today, we say farewell to this great man and celebrate his life. The most befitting tribute we can pay him is to consolidate and carry on with the work and the vision he was associated with for our continent. It is to make a better future for Africa because his legacy to us does not lie in the past but in the future. There is no doubt that the ideals Meles lived for, the work he did, the courage he showed in facing many challenges will live on and be carried forward by the millions of young, energetic motivated Ethiopians and other Africans.
May his soul rest in eternal peace