Late Ethiopian ruler to be mourned in Victoria

Zanawi brought dignity to impoverished country's residents

Victoria resident Selam Ayele

Victoria resident Selam Ayele

Victoria’s Ethiopian community is celebrating the life and mourning the death of a man seen as a champion for that African country’s basic human needs, at a gathering on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ato Meles Zanawi, who battled the country’s communist regime nearly 20 years before being named Ethiopian leader in 1991, died at 57 earlier this month after an illness.

“This was the saddest day for Ethiopia,” said Selam Ayele, a Victoria resident and co-organizer of the Sept. 2 event.

While she has been away from her native country for 13 years, she feels strongly about Zanawi’s effect on the health and welfare of her people.

“In 21 years he never took a vacation,” Ayele said. “He was the change that Ethiopia needed.”

His dreams, she said, were to see everyone fed three times a day and have ample clothing, “the basic things that we’ve been missing for so long.”

Mekonnen Tedla, who has lived in Victoria 17 years after emigrating to Canada from Ethiopia in 1990, called Zanawi’s death “a terrible loss for the country.”

“He was a visionary for all of Africa,” said Tedla, most of whose immediate family members remain in his native land. “Some people forget about poverty when they move here, but some of us, we feel the sorrow for our country at this time.”

Such changes as educational opportunities for residents – Ethiopia went from having two universities when Tedla left to 37 now – and the freedom to travel in and out of the country came about under Zanawi’s leadership, Tedla said.

While Zanawi was seen as a positive influence on economic development for the country – Ethiopia enjoys one of the fastest growing non-oil dependent economies in Africa – critics said the country’s human rights had begun to suffer under his rule.

The Victoria event gets underway at 6 p.m. at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church hall, 1112 Caledonia Ave. It is open to everyone.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read