It says much when the long-time rulers of two of Africa’s largest, most important nations, Egypt’s Husni Mubarak and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi, had to fly to Europe for critical medical treatment because their own nations lacked facilities and specialists.
Meles’ untimely death at 57 last week in a Belgian hospital – probably from cancer – has left Ethiopia reeling. He and a junta of Tigrayans ruled Ethiopia’s 90.8 million people with an iron first since 1991 after they overthrew the murderous Communist Derg regime of Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam. Mengistu’s Red Terror is said to have murdered tens of thousands and starved to death a million peasants.
Assessing Meles’ rule is difficult. He was one of Africa’s smartest, most sophisticated leaders. Meles maintained a reputation for financial integrity and personal austerity that was unusual in Africa, though his government was accused of widespread corruption.