The funeral of Meles Zenawi, late Prime Minister of EthiopiaSeptember 1st, 2012
The last week has been passed in mourning for Ethiopia’s visionary leader, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Ethiopians throughout Addis Ababa and in the regional capitals and cities have been mourning the death of the Prime Minister with candle vigils and signing books of condolence. Here in Addis Ababa, thousands of federal government employees carrying flower wreaths and slogans have paid their respects to the coffin, lying in state at the Grand Palace. Members of the diplomatic community attended the ceremony of bidding farewell at the Grand Palace on Monday, and signing the Book of Condolence. Groups of artists, athletes, media professionals, private sector employees, religious fathers, and thousands of others have been paying respect and reverence throughout the week. The long queues of mourners carrying placards and chanting slogans at the gates of the Palace have been a daily scene.
The nation is mourning his untimely death with deep sense of sorrow and a resolve to bring to full fruition his dream of building a prosperous Ethiopia. The determination is being expressed in a manner that befits a leader who had so inspiring a developmental vision of his own – a vision nurtured by deep reflections on reality and an extraordinary zeal in translating it into reality.
The messages conveyed in the weeping and the chanting as the nation mourned the death of a great leader were mixed. People are weeping, grief stricken, for the loss of a man who proved that Ethiopia and Ethiopians will come out victorious in the war against poverty. Equally, their chanting signalled a deep sense of consolation from his enduring legacy and a resolve to restore the nation to its glory in pursuit of the achievement of his aims and ambitions. In numerous interviews, mourners again and again vowed to complete the Renaissance Dam on the Nile and achieve the goals of the Growth and Transformation Plan. Indeed, the massive public reaction shows crystallization of a consensus that to pursue the road of development laid down by Prime Minister Meles, to continue with the rapid economic growth of the past eight years, is the way to promote and make permanent his legacy.
The massive turnout of mourners across the nation has surprised by its extent. Everyone has participated, and even more the public outpouring of grief has continued. It shows no sign of declining from the time the body of the late Prime Minister arrived back in Addis Ababa. As the day of the funeral approaches, the stream of sorrow has grown rather than diminished. Indeed, the loss of the Prime Minister, which originally reverberated across the nation, has now engulfed it. To attend to the demands of the public, the National Funeral Committee has been working round the clock, in helping to prepare sessions of mass mourning as well as organizing the regular visits to the Grand Palace and planning Sunday’s funeral service.
The National Committee has now arranged the details of the funeral ceremony which will precede the internment in Trinity Cathedral. The Chairperson of the National Committee for the Funeral, Kassa Tekleberhan, Speaker of the House of Federation said on Thursday that a number of heads of state have confirmed that they will attend the funeral. The Addis Ababa city administration has announced that a total of 10,000 volunteers will be participating to help coordinate various elements of the funeral ceremony. In advance of the funeral ceremony itself, the National Committee have arranged sessions for the residents of Addis Ababa to bid farewell to the late Prime Minister. On Thursday and Friday this week, sessions of farewell to the Prime Minister are being held in Meskel Square. Large crowds have been gathering there. On Saturday, prayers by all faiths will be held in memoriam. Similar sessions will be held in all regional capitals.
On the day of the funeral ceremony, Sunday September 2nd, the Committee has announced that the entire ceremony will be televised by the national state TV. The funeral ceremony, which will be attended by Heads of States, high-ranking government and military officials, ambassadors, dignitaries and the residents of Addis Ababa will be held in Meskel Square and this farewell session for the late Prime Minister’s body will then be followed by the burial at Trinity Cathedral. The body, accompanied by members of the family and other relatives, ministers and officials including the Presidents of the Regional States, and a Guard of Honour drawn from the Defence Forces and the Federal Police will accompany the horse-drawn hearse from the Palace to Meskel Square where it will arrive at about 9 am. Heads of State, other dignitaries and residents will await the body in the Square. The body will be placed on a special podium. The Acting Prime Minister and family members will speak, an obituary will be delivered and foreign Heads of State and other dignitaries will also speak. The Anthems of Ethiopia and of the African Union will be played; those present will be able to pay their final respects to the body of the late Prime Minister.
At the end of the ceremony, the body will be placed on a horse-drawn carriage and the funeral procession will accompany it to the Trinity Cathedral where the body will be laid to rest. The burial itself will be attended by members of the immediate family, other close relatives, ministers, and selected representatives of various groups of the public. As the body is laid to rest, a 21 gun salute will be fired - in honour of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a great and visionary leader who will always be much missed. --MFA