Over the previous two weeks, the nation mourned Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s death in indescribable sadness and grief. The mourning, which ended on Sunday with the funeral of the late Prime Minister, was unprecedented. Ethiopians of all age groups and all social strata poured out their grief in all corners of the nation, showing reverence, respect and love for a great leader. The country was infused with melancholy and on the day of the funeral everywhere was deserted as people watched the television at home or in public places to pay their last respects to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
On Monday, Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addressed the nation, and recognizing this sincere and overwhelming grief, formally thanked Ethiopians of all walks of life for showing such enormous and immeasurable respect for their great leader. Ato Hailemariam said that the respectful, deep and widespread grief shown by all Ethiopians in bidding farewell to their beloved leader had stunned the world. He noted that when the news of the Prime Minister’s illness was heard, “many Ethiopians of different faiths wished a speedy recovery to see him back in office through prayers and intercession.” The moment the premier‘s death was announced “Ethiopians in all corners of the nation mourned in a manner that astonished the world.” On the day of the funeral – an historic first for Ethiopians to bid farewell to a leader in peace, love and respect – they paid homage “with great respect, civility and in order, all drenched in tears.” Ato Hailemariam underlined the fact that “the Ethiopian peoples have proven to the world that they are a great people who in their reasoned judgment give due credit to a leader who toiled all his life for their betterment”. And in response to this he added: “ I stand today before you to salute you on behalf of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front and of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”.
The Acting Prime Minister said it was very clear that the message conveyed by the actions of the public over the previous two weeks had not been confined to merely mourning the untimely death of Prime Minister Meles. It included the expression of determination to implement with real vigor the vision of a great leader. “To that end”, he said, “you have renewed your covenant to realize his aims and ambitions”. He said the leadership of EPRDF at all levels “will stand steadfast imbued with our leader’s spirit of struggle to realize the goals set in our policies and strategies”.
Acting Premier Hailemariam emphasized the inheritance from the late Prime Minister Meles and stressed that the new leadership would take up the baton to achieve the grand plans outlined in the Growth and Transformation Plan. Ato Hailemariam said “the late Prime Minister while in office did his best to ensure that the new leadership is versed with nuanced understanding of policies and strategies and has acquired the wisdom of leadership”. He noted that younger leaders had already learnt from Meles’ example. They understood the importance of having the tenacity to live for others, of demonstrating endurance and sacrifice to the cause of the people, of facing challenges and of searching for a way out that staunchly defends the interest of the public, of showing patience, forgivingness and humbleness.
The Acting Prime Minister said “I have no doubt that the new leadership in coordination with the old leadership will continue successfully on the path we started” to achieve our goals. He said that “using the political line we now inherit from our great leader and rallying the support of our people, we can make a miracle”. “The Ethiopian people are the carpenters, masons and engineers of our future.” “We have full confidence in what our peasants and pastoralists, urban people engaged in development activities, scholars and technocrats can achieve.” In these circumstances, the Acting Prime Minister said “it was possible to speak with certainty about the continuity of development endeavors.” And to that end, “the leadership is more than ready to coordinate and mobilize the visible enthusiasm and motivation for change shown by the public.”
Ato Hailemariam said that the vision that Prime Minister Meles shared is that “we can attain a middle income country status in the next 8-10 years.” In recent years “we have reached half-way up the hill, registering more than 10% economic growth for eight years.” Now, “I call on you all to strive together with government with real vigor… [and] fighting tooth and nail, we shall strive to climb up to the top of the hill. We are not permitted to stop before reaching the top and realizing the vision and aims of our great leader.”