Ambassador Kadafo Hanfare Observation #4: Meeting Meles Zenawi

A continuation on my earlier note on the Ethiopian Governments of my lifetime:

One of the charismatic people opposing The Derg was Meles Zenawi. One of my first interactions with him was at The Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant in Washington DC. It was 1989 and he had just walked in with Major Alemseged. I already knew the Major but I didn’t know Meles well. He told me he was a communist, but a learned one, opposing The Derg’s ignorant version of communism.

By then, I had lived in America for almost two decades and a communist was a communist. We got along well enough, he left after giving me his card which had his location as Medani, Sudan.

A couple of years later, I returned to Ethiopia upon the defeat of The Derg and found Meles at the head of the Transitional Government. He was still a communist, he told me, but not willing to impose his ideology on the entire nation. I took him at his word, failing to believe any government could be worse than what Ethiopia had just ousted.

Meles was admirable in many ways. He was articulate, persuasive and convincing, quick to make a decision and never prone to being crippled by inactivity. I truly believed he was working for the interest of the nation.

After the downfall of The Derg, The Afar region had an internal conference where The Sultan’s leadership and position was reaffirmed, Hanfare Alimirah was elected President of The Afar Region, and I was elected as the liaison between the Transitional Government of Meles Zenawi and The Afar Regional Government.

After the conference, Hanfare was in a horrific car accident and was evacuated for treatment to Saudi Arabia, due to a lot of help from Meles. I disagreed with Meles Zenawi on a lot of points, but when I separate the person from the politician, there is a lot to admire.

The rest will come soon.


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