Meles Zenawi // Meles Zenawi (Wikipediacomments,Flickr)

Yet another African big shot is dead and gone to his grave. And it is the controversial and assertive Meles Zenawi, who was officially Ethiopia’s Prime Minister.
 

Zenawi, died aged 57 on Monday August 20, in a hospital abroad after months of illness, government officials have said. Details of what killed him are not yet known.

Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and who also acts as the country’s foreign minister, has been named as acting head of government.
 

The former PM’s death comes some eight months after going out of the public domain, amidst speculation and concerns over what could have possibly led to his sudden silence.
 

The speculations heightened when he was missing in action at the African Union summit held in the Ethiopian Capital of Addis Ababa last month.
 

“The premier had been receiving medical treatment abroad for the past two months and his health was improving, but due to a sudden infection which occurred on Sunday, he went back to hospital for emergency treatment, and even if a lot of medical attention was given by his doctors, he died yesterday Monday at around 23:40,” a statement from the Ethiopian government read.
 

Appreciated and detested in equal measure, and also called names including one which likened him to a “devil incarnate”, (by Commander Assefa Seifu) Meles, who took power in 1991 “as the leader of rebels that ousted communist leader Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 and led the country's economic transformation,” was to most Ethiopians, a Prime Minister who had the country at heart.
 

The West loved him as much as they liked his stance against Islamist extremism, having fought the Al Shabab Islamist groups in Somalia. On two occasions, he had reason to send troops to Somalia to fight the group, which is said to be connected to Al Qaeda.
 

In a tribute to Zenawi, the United Kingdom’s David Cameron says he was “an inspirational spokesman for Africa”.
 

Despite leading Ethiopia to unprecedented economic growth in the past half decade, it wasn’t all rosy for Zenawi as he had to account and explain reasons why his style of governance saw so much repression and disrespect for basic human rights.
 

A typical example is the 2005 post election incidents that saw a defiance of human rights; where about 200 people lost their lives. This is still fresh on the minds of his critics.
 

As tough as he was, Zenawi always found very subtle ways to explain his side of an issue, and be it as it may that he had the backing of the West in certain areas, he was in most instances hailed as the “King” and the man, who can’t go wrong.
 

The United States government for instance, liked him.  Under his rule, Ethiopia received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. Some have said, the support from the U.S was also a way of showing appreciation to his (Zenawi) government for occasionally hosting the US military drones that patrolled parts of East Africa.
 

An intelligent peace broker who was very instrumental in the search for a lasting solution to the problems the newly independent South Sudan and Sudan had, Zenawi duly served his people well.
Often considered controversial, Zenawi is said to have at a point, referred to the Ethiopian flag as “just a piece of rag”.

Here are some of his all-time quotes.

“I am Yemeni. I know myself to be a Yemeni. We are Yemenis. Apart from the royal family, Ethiopians are Arabs”.

“Ethiopia is only 100 years old. Those who claim otherwise are indulging themselves in fairy tales”.

“I have no problem talking to anybody so long as it helps the purpose of peace”.
 

“What we have is a pattern of prevarication, a pattern of trying to draw out the process and consolidate the hold on our territory, if that's the case –and it appears to be the case – then the opportunities for resolving this problem peacefully could be fast disappearing”.
 

“I don’t know what the prosecution will ask for but the death penalty is still legal in Ethiopia. On a personal note that is not the penalty I would like to see applied. It is for the prosecution and courts to decide, but if I have any say on it I would prefer prison sentences rather than death sentences”.
 

“What we have detained are people who have tried to overthrow the duly constituted government, and that in my view is treason under the laws of the country”.
 

“The violence has marred the image of Ethiopia. The worst is clearly behind us and we do not expect any such violence in the near future”.
 

“We have no intention of playing fast and loose with this document, with the OAU process. We only hope that this time around the other side really means what it says”.

 “What the implications of this will be in terms of relations between Ethiopia and the EU we will have to wait and see. But I don't think you will be surprised if Ethiopia were to insist that it should not be patronized”.

 

“The only forces we are pursuing are Eritreans who are hiding behind the skirts of Somali women”.