Meles Zenawi Quotes

In 1991, I asked Meles what he would like me to do to help him before I left, says a diplomat. To which Meles replied: “I need to learn something about economics, Can you get me some basic books?” Meles eventually sat for a long-distance learning degree from Britain’s Open University. He came in a remarkable third in his graduating class despite studying while governing one of Africa’s most populated countries.

“We cannot but feel deeply insulted that, at the dawn of the new millennium, ours is one of the poorest countries in the world. The darkness of poverty and backwardness” had dimmed the country’s once proud and powerful reputation. A thousand years from now, when Ethiopians gather to welcome the fourth millennium, they shall say the eve of the third millennium was the beginning of the end of the dark ages in Ethiopia.”

“Although I was born and raised in rural Ethiopia, I was in a situation not so different from you (an urban person). When I joined the revolutionary struggle, I was a student at Addis Ababa University medical school, and had already been to one of the best high schools in the country. On top of that, I had read revolutionary books about Ho-Chi-Minh and Che-Guevara and had unflinching ideological views on life. When we joined the struggle and started living with the peasants, the reality on the ground couldn’t be further removed from what we had read in the books. We had to teach ourselves from scratch and learn from the wisdom of the people we were fighting for. At the time, it was not easy to earn the trust of the people and secure political legitimacy for the struggle.”

“If you want political office and political legitimacy from the people, start by accepting the people as your equals. Don’t patronize them. They know better than you. Understand them, accept their views, and help them shape their own future. Do not try to shape the future for them. But leadership cannot be learned through theory alone. You must be in the thick of things and practice it.”

“There were a lot of tough times and difficult decisions that I had to make in the past 21 years. But for me, one stands out more than the others. It was during the Ethio-Eritrean war, I was at loggerheads with my party over the decision to continue or discontinue the war with our neighbor. I and another colleague of mine in my party supported the ending of the war. An overwhelming majority of my party rejected this view and decided to continue with the war. This meant, not only did I have to accept a position that was contrary to my own personal beliefs, but as a leader of the country, I also had to take the decision to the public, convince and rally the public behind that decision. This was an extremely difficult task to undertake. This was a time that I felt very lonely. Luckily, my party provided a therapeutic platform for me to vent out my frustration. And I got out of the loneliness through the subsequent discussion and debates I had with my party.”

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Quotations

  • “I cannot separate my achievements from what can be considered as the achievements of the ruling party”. “Whatever achievement there might have been, it does not exist independent of that party.”
  • “We are making progress on the economic front though not necessarily according to the standard orthodox prescription, so some people think there must be something wrong …”
  • “People have non-material needs, that’s what makes us different from cattle. You can’t satisfy one at the expenses of the other… (In Ethiopia) there is as much political empowerment as there is economic empowerment.”
  • “Are we moving as fast as our legs will carry us in the right direction? The fact is that we are generally a stable country in a turbulent neighborhood and that cannot be attributed purely to economic growth.”
  • “We now have a constitution … [which] defines the country in such a way that you contribute but also if you are not comfortable you can leave.”
  • “Let’s define the country in such a way that you can contribute but also, if you are not comfortable, you can leave. What is the point of 50 million chattel slaves? You are better off with 5 million who are not chattel slaves.”
  • “We have done a lot of work in that area such as the right of nations to speak their own languages. But have we created a perfect democratic system? No. I am not sure there is one anyway. This is all a work in progress. It involves not just Addis but the remotest parts of the country.”
  • “Unlike all previous governments, our writ runs in every village. That has never happened in the history of Ethiopia. The state was distant, irrelevant. You paid tribute from time to time and if you didn’t like it you rebelled. That’s the history of Ethiopia. Now we have a formally structured state, there is a school and a clinic in every village and roads, infrastructure.”
  • “Yes (the new constitution) is working, people are beginning to feel part of a larger entity. They are beginning to feel the benefits of belonging to a larger country.”

On the Opposition and democracy

  • “You can categorise (the opposition) into two groups: those who think our constitutional system is the biggest crime which will separate Ethiopia … it’s a visceral objection to our experiment. [And there are] those who think there is a devilish conspiracy – clever but devilish – designed to abort the desire of the nations to have their own state. It is neither one nor the other. The fundamental concept is that the greatest asset of the country is the people.”
  • “There is no village that I know of in the rural areas that did not vote for us. Expect in the pastoral areas. We stand no chance in those areas. We are not even going to contest elections there. People there are completely ignorant and not interested. The opposition is completely ignorant (of the rural areas) so we had the whole field for us alone …”
  • “We built the structures in rural areas during the armed struggle. Where we have a good party structure we are able to get the votes out.”
  • “We were voted out in Addis in 2005 but the opposition refused to take over (the government of the city). They said they had won the whole national election. There was a terrible administration in Addis after that election.”

The army

  • “The army in terms of its composition, the old fighters the TPLF are now a tiny minority except at senior levels.”

On the Ogaden, the Somali region of Ethiopia

  • “Initially our army was there. Now it is local police militia. They can contain the Ogaden National Liberation Front and fighters from Somalia.”
  • “We are extending electricity pylons tarmac roads and schools – if they blow them up that is their problem.”

On foreign investment

  • “We do not think foreign companies are angels. They seek profit and there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t think Ethiopia is an island and we won’t survive as an islan … But we can’t expect foreigners to do everything for us. We have to make sure it is a win-win solution.”
  • “But most infrastructure activities are not amenable to traditional private investors … Infrastructure must be available to all at the lowest possible price.”

On the dam building programme

  • “Most of our dams are in deep gorges so there is very little displacement (of people). They are found an alternative and compensated. Everyone who has been affected is compensated.”
  • “My fear is that (western environmentalists) are not concerned about the environment in an intelligent way.”

On Nomadic pastoralists

  • “That’s a romantic western idea but if there are people who want to live like that that is their right. If you force them to settle, you will not succeed.”

On foreign agribusiness companies being given large tracts of land in the southern province, Gambela

  • “There is a massive shortage of people in Gambela … All our agriculture programmes are based on small scale. The private sector is brought in, in so far as it is consistent with supporting small scale farmers.”
  • “There is a massive shortage of people in Gambela so we make sure that Gambela people are settled and have land and young people can go to farms not to work as guards which is the traditional role, but as farmers. [The private sector] must offer jobs to the local people in Gambela before they bring people from the highlands or other areas [to work in Gambela].”

23 Responses

  1. rich
    rich September 5, 2012 at 12:51 am · Reply

    PM Meles Zenawi, Passed away i don’t accept the truth b/c his not dead his visionary and good governance made for us so how could i accept his death i don’t want. any way I’m not fight with God his always with us God bless Ethiopia.

  2. Wold
    Wold September 5, 2012 at 1:02 am · Reply

    I am very sorry by the death of our prime minister H.E. Meles Zenawi but what can we do it is all God’s plan, we have to show our respect to our late prime minister by working hard together inorder to accomplish his visions and to develop our country.

  3. Tesfay
    Tesfay September 5, 2012 at 2:46 am · Reply

    May God rest his soul in a peace…………

  4. sultan
    sultan September 7, 2012 at 8:19 am · Reply


  5. sultan
    sultan September 7, 2012 at 8:26 am · Reply


  6. Mesfin
    Mesfin September 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm · Reply

    he is always in our heart. unforgettable leader ,teacher and General.He was my Icon he shape me to love my country to be honest.He didn’t know me but I am his son.He didn’t look at me but I am his student and audience.I always try to follow him because he was the one who predict our futurity.I work day and night to fulfill his dream.

  7. Teddy
    Teddy September 21, 2012 at 6:51 am · Reply

    He was more than a Prophet. He is uncommon leader even for the world. Let`s pray so that God will give us a leader like him. I do not have words to express his everything.

  8. gizea (gallaxy)
    gizea (gallaxy) November 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm · Reply

    A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men.

  9. Eba Mala
    Eba Mala December 13, 2012 at 2:47 am · Reply

    He was more than a Prophet. He is uncommon leader even for the world. Let`s pray so that God will give us a leader like him. I do not have words to express his everything.

  10. gediwon
    gediwon December 17, 2012 at 8:29 am · Reply

    may god condole all of us

  11. Bedane
    Bedane June 27, 2013 at 4:46 am · Reply

    We can’t angry at God; birth, living and death is Natural. What all ETHIOPIAN has to do is to pray for his soul and taking all his life as an example, we have to work hard, very carefully,efficiently, and effectively in every sector that we engaged in to fulfill his vision and dream. We must have broad vision (if possible, greater than his) to replace him, to take out our country from the list of poor countries, to rise the name of today’s ETHIOPIA as that of its history- THE AKSUMITE KINGDOM, and its heroines- that of ADWA VICTORY. pride to be ETHIOPIA!

  12. melaku zereay
    melaku zereay August 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm · Reply

    my super hero …
    the one who is giving us light burning him self up, oh my God would Ethiopia get a great leader such like him for the future?
    my super hero may God keep his soul in peace. I LOVE MELES SO MUCH more

  13. tsegay hagos abraha
    tsegay hagos abraha May 29, 2014 at 4:06 am · Reply

    all has been said about our pm meles zenawi but i only am capable to inspire morally to all ethiopians that they should wisely think & solve problems occur in our nation with high emotion of ethiopianness!

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  19. Mohammed mussa
    Mohammed mussa January 12, 2016 at 9:51 am · Reply

    Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’ is the an exellence leader i have ever seen before

  20. fila sing
    fila sing February 9, 2016 at 7:10 am · Reply

    We Love u
    our earth leader

  21. moges
    moges May 21, 2016 at 3:03 pm · Reply

    I love u

  22. moges
    moges May 21, 2016 at 3:06 pm · Reply

    we love our leader

    BERIHU WELL January 20, 2017 at 9:09 am · Reply

    There no any one wha can replace u. Very precious man during ur time. RIP

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