By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 20, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan and Sudan on Tuesday praised the role played by the late prime minister of Ethiopa Meles Zenawi in bringing peace between the two countries.
The former prime minister also received praise from several African leaders during a memorial in Addis Ababa to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.
The ceremony was attended by leaders from South Sudan, Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Somalia.
The leaders praised the late Zenawi for what they described as his outstanding contribution towards maintaining regional peace and stability as well as for his roles in progress made by Ethiopia.
“For South Sudan he left us dignity, peace, independence and he laid a foundation for the Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET)”, said South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial, who represented president Salva Kiir at the memorial.
LAPSSET was launched in March 2012 by then Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, Kiir and Zenawi. Under the project a railway and pipeline will be built with the hope that it will foster transport linkage between Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Marial told the congregation that Zenawi’s death was deeply felt in his country.
“The pain of his loss was bitter and deep in South Sudan. His service, his contribution to the national struggle for the people of South Sudan’s national freedom, human dignity and independence was profound”, Marial said.
There was warm applause from the audience when Marial, in the middle of his speech, unexpectedly announced that the president of Sudan and South Sudan were telephoning each other in the middle of the ceremony.
“I am sure Meles Zenawi would have been very, very happy indeed to see the two talking”, Marial said.
“As you can see we Sudanese whether from South Sudan or Sudan smile and laugh with each other”, he added, sending the regional leaders and congregation into bouts of laughter. Marial, however, did not elaborate further on what the two presidents discussed.
Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir also hailed the late Zenawi’s contribution and commitment towards a peaceful resolution of the Sudan and South Sudan conflict.
Bashir called on the current Ethiopian leadership to follow in the footsteps of the late prime minister and preserve his legacy.
The Sudanese leader assured Ethiopia of Sudan’s commitment to further solidify relations between the two countries.
Other African leaders similarly praised Zenawi as a visionary, describing him as a “voice of the voiceless”, “champion of the poor” and a “true son of Africa”.
Zenawi died last year after ruling Ethiopia for 21 years.
A library and a park will be built as part of a foundation established in his memory.
The unveiling was witnessed by 11 representatives of the nation’s nationalities, from across the country’s nine regions.