The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi deprives Ethiopia — and Africa as a whole — of an exceptional leader.
We both knew him from his days as a guerrilla in the mountains of Tigray, northern Ethiopia, fighting against the former Communist government in Addis Ababa. “Comrade Meles” (he was christened Legesse but took the nom de guerre Meles in his early revolutionary days after a colleague who was killed) rose to become first among equals of the rebel fighters who took power in 1991.
His ascendancy was due to force of intellect: In those days of collective leadership of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, Meles was best able to articulate a theory linking state power, ethnic identity and economic policy, making Marxist-Leninism relevant to the demands of winning a guerrilla war.
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