Leading article: Ethiopia faces an uncertain future

 

Share
Related Topics

The death of Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia, at the relatively young age of 57, is a grave blow not just to the country which he rescued from the brink of recurring famine. It is a blow to the whole African continent and to the wider international community.

Mr Meles was far from perfect. In his later years he became increasingly intolerant of dissent and presided over human rights violations. To his credit, however, was his transformation of one of the poorest countries in the world into a place of modest prosperity.

In his youth, Ethiopia was held in static feudalism under the Emperor Haile Selassie. Then came the bloody terror of the Soviet-backed regime of Colonel Mengistu. Mr Meles emerged as the brightest of the group of revolutionaries which overthrew Mengistu in 1991, and over the next two decades the charismatic leader who began as an Albanian-style Marxist embraced a controlled capitalism which made Ethiopia a model for economic growth. He also became a leading light in the African Union and was one of the seminal thinkers in Tony Blair's Commission for Africa.

Under Mr Meles, Ethiopia received nearly $4bn of aid each year, mostly spent to good effect. The economy has been growing by near-10 per cent a year for a decade and foreign capital has flooded in. Indeed, Mr Meles became what Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described as the "intellectual leader for the continent".

Not all his actions found universal favour. He has maintained a one-party system in Ethiopia. Some 200 people died in street demonstrations that followed the 2005 elections. A number of critics have been locked up by a controlling politician who kept a tight grip on even minor details of government. Most recently he tried to control what was being said in mosques, fearful of the growing influence of salafists and wahhabists.

When challenged in private over his intolerance of dissent, Mr Meles hinted that there were more extreme views within his ruling party which he had to appease. Now that he has gone, Ethiopia, Africa and the world will wait with trepidation to see if that was true.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices