The Late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi – as Remembered by his Uncle, Terefe Asres

The Late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi - as Remembered by his Uncle, Terefe AsresGender not specified View treeBorn:
Father: UnspecifiedMother: Unspecified
Children: none
Siblings: none

By TibebeSelassie Tigabu

Meles Zenawi: the visible yet elusive man

His life was mysterious for many people. Before he died or after he died there was news about how he did not have a break in his life. Many say he was the brain behind the political party he led. Many people said he worked for more than twenty hours a day and did not have time even for his close families and friends.

His close family members also seem to agree with this comment. His uncle, Terefe Asres, says that the late PM dedicated and committed his life to eliminating poverty and worked towards raising the standard of living of the people. According to Terefe, as a child he was already a grown-up, with a good articulation when he talked and knew what he was doing.

He remembers that the young Meles loved swimming, which also runs in the family. He remembers a story in which the neighborhood boys told Meles that there was an evil spirit around the river. So he went to see what they were talking about. Terefe established the football team in Nigiste Saba School and Meles also grew up playing football. As a child he had a close relationship with his mother and his old brother Fisseha. According to Terefe, his father or the family were very conservative Orthodox Christians and Meles also grew up following in the footstep of the family.

After he came to Addis Ababa he used to visit Terefe who, at that time, also lived in Addis. Especially during the dry season he used to spend the time in his house. During that time he just locked himself and read and gathered information. And there were times when they talked for hours and usually the medium he used was English and his uncle is still impressed with his skill. “His language skill was impressive,” Terefe states.

After he assumed power even though it was not frequent they still saw each other. He says since his schedule was very tight their meeting was also not frequent but he never said no to appointments where Terefe sometimes went to his house and discussed current situations. According to Terefe, even though he did not have time, he tried to keep the balance. His father was sick. He used to come to Addis Ababa and usually Azeb Mesfin took care of him. But he took a break from work and saw his father. As a member of the family, he did not have time for weddings but Terefe saw him during funerals of close family members. He was proud because of the fact that he had the humility. He still calls him Gashe. One of the saddest moments, as Terefe explains was during the split of the TPLF. The family was praying for him; but usually he was strong spirited. Aregash Adane, who was in the political department since 1975 during the struggle movement, sees Meles as one of the freedom-fighters who were there. She says that during those times the spirit of the freedom-fighters were the same where a group of people who wanted to bring radical change in Ethiopia, hopeful of the future, determined to sacrifice anything and Meles was one of them. Since the political department was responsible for reading and writing proposals, he usually does that.

Apart from that, as she remembers, he used to talk with his comrades, laugh at silly things like the others and used to tell jokes. Since they lived as a family most of the things that used to captivate their attention also revolved around day-to-day situations. As she reminisces, they used to laugh over simple things. Since there was no luxury in choices, they usually ate sorghum pancakes, sorghum porridge or anything that they can get. One thing she remembers about that time was that he loved music and he enjoyed music. In the political departments, the famous songs were Sudanese and old songs. And the famous singers were Aster Awoke, Chachi Tadesse, Ephrem Tamiru, Jim Reeves and Aretha Franklin.