Ethio Biography

Ethiopian Online Biography

Meles Zenawi


Males Zenawi was an Ethiopian guerilla/rebel fighter, chairman of Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) and the head of the ruling party Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). After EPRDF took power in 1991, Meles was the President of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia. He then assumed the role of the prime minister of the country. He led the country for 23 years, until his death on 20 August, 2012.

Meles is considered one of the most powerful and influential individuals in Ethiopian recent history. He is credited by some and accused by others for the economic, social and political states of the contemporary Ethiopia. His philosophies and ideology in social economy, ethnicity and politics, is directly reflected in the current psyche of Ethiopia.

Early life

Meles was born in 1940, in Adwa, Tigray Region, Ethiopia from his father Zenawi Asres and his mother Alemash Guebrelule. His birth name was Legesse Zenawi. He was the middle child of six. Meles attended Queen Sheba elementary school in Adwa. He then won a full scholarship to the prestigious General Winget High school in Addis Ababa.


In 1972 Meles joined Addis Ababa University (back then known as Hailesellasie University) as a medicine major. In 1974, when he was a second year student, he dropped out of school to join other students to establish Tigrayan National Organization. The organization was preceded to Tigrayian People Liberation Front (TPLF). He was elected as an executive member of the front in 1979 and became a chairman in in 1983. He adopted the name Meles in honor of a university student and fellow guerilla fighter Meles Tekle, who was killed by the military regime, Derg.

Political Career

Meles, during the armed struggle, was considered a man behind the fighter’s political thinking and approach. As a young man, he was known as a diehard Leninist, and has influenced the fighters in that direction. He established a Marxist-Leninist League inside the TPLF, and was nicknamed Lenin by the fighters. The league is considered one of the strategies Meles used to get closer to the Executive Committee of TPLF and eventually become a member and a chairman.

In 1983, he was elected as the Chairman of TPLF. He managed the political wing of the armed struggle, served as a front man for negotiations, political and logistic support from the west and Arab world, and coordinated toe scattered armed struggles around the country to form the national front EPRDF. Many wrote that as Meles got high in the political ladder, he dropped his Marxist-Leninist beliefs, and strengthened his friendship with the western world, especially that of the United States.

At the end of the Ethiopian civil war, in 1991, and the defeat of the military Derg regime, EPRDF assumed power. As the chairman of both TPLF and EPRDF Meles Zenawi became the president of the Transitional Government. The transition period marks the Eritrean secession, which made Ethiopia effectively landlocked country. Meles is remembered as a fierce supporter of the referendum given to the Eritrean people, which resulted the separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia.

He then assumed the role of the Prime Minister, until his death in August, 2012. Melese’s 23 years in power is considered critical in reshaping Ethiopia’s economic, social and political stance.

Personal life

Melez Zenwai died for unknown/unrevealed causes in 20 August, 2012. A state funeral on September 2, 2012 was attended by many Ethiopians.

Meles was married to a fellow rebel fighter Azeb Mesfen. He is survived by his wife and their three children.

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