x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ethiopians in UAE pay tribute to late leader Meles Zenawi

Ethiopian expatriates said Meles would be remembered for the economic development he brought to their homeland.

DUBAI // Meles Zenawi's death is a loss to Africa and the world, those who knew him said yesterday.

"He has done many things for Africa," said Dr Yousef Eisa Hassan Al Sabri, the UAE ambassador to Ethiopia, who met Meles many times.

"He was playing a big role in the African Union. He was a good humanitarian and very clever man."

Ethiopian expatriates said Meles would be remembered for the economic development he brought to their homeland.

"Deep in their hearts, many people will be sad about his death because of the changes he made," said Henok Belay, who runs a cargo business in Dubai.

"Ethiopia was always known as a poor country and he tried to change this image.

"His rise to power was one of the biggest struggles in Africa, so he was a very important leader for us.

"The economic status of people changed because of him."

Fiseha Gebre, deputy consul at the Ethiopian Consulate in Dubai, worked with Meles when he took power in 1991. "I worked with him for three years and remember him as a visionary," Mr Gebre said. "He was important to us all, because of how his achievements changed people's lives.

"This news will affect the hearts of many Ethiopians residing in the UAE and elsewhere abroad because of the changes he made after he took over.

"His vision was to make the country self-sufficient in power and in agriculture."

Other Ethiopians in the UAE spoke of their sense of loss.

"He is a hero for our country, so it is really very sad," said Hury Tsegay, co-owner of Bonna Annee, an Ethiopian restaurant with branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. "We feel bad that one of our brothers has died.

"For a country that was just known for famine, we are now a fast-growing economy. He will be remembered as a good leader."

"He worked very hard for the welfare of the country," added Yeshi Bekele, who works at an Ethiopian restaurant.

"Most countries have started opening embassies in Ethiopia because of the progress he has brought to the country.

"We didn't have roads or trains. Young boys used to sleep on the roads. He gave them work. People aren't homeless now. His death is a big blow to the country."

rtalwar@thenational.ae

pkannan@thenational.ae