World News

Timeline: From bush to PM, the rise of Meles Zenawi

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia will announce on Monday the provisional result of a national election which is expected to return Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to power and set him on the road to nearly 25 years in power.

Here are some key dates in his political life:

* May 8, 1955 - Legesse Zenawi is born in Adwa in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Some suggest rebellion was in his blood because Adwa is where Ethiopia defeated Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s invaders. He later changes his name to Meles in tribute to an activist killed by the communist regime.

* 1974 - Meles drops out of medical school in the capital Addis Ababa and travels back to the Tigray bush to take part in a nationalist revolt against the dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. He helps found the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on February 18, 1975 at the age of 19.

* 1978 - He contracts malaria near the Mereb river and, when he is close to death, his father manages to get medicine to him and hide him in his house for a month. Meles does not see his family again until he becomes leader of Ethiopia.

* 1989 - Meles takes over as leader of the TPLF and broadens its ethnic Tigrayan power base by setting up the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, bringing in groups from other ethnicities.

* May 21, 1991 - Reuters breaks the news that Mengistu has fled Ethiopia en route to Zimbabwe. Meles and his EPRDF rebels arrive in the capital a week later. Mengistu is still in Zimbabwe, where he lives lavishly.

* July 1991 - After two months of negotiations, an interim government is formed with Meles as transitional president.

* August 1995 - The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is proclaimed. The EPRDF sweeps to power in poorly contested elections. Meles becomes Ethiopia’s first prime minister.

* 1998-2000 - Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ceded from Ethiopia in 1993, wage war over their border. When it is over, more than 80,000 people lie dead.

* May 2000 - The EPRDF wins another election, in which it again faced little opposition.

* May 15, 2005 - Ethiopians vote in what is touted as the country’s first truly democratic election. Enthusiasm is overwhelming and the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) gains huge support in cities and towns.

* June and November, 2005 - Violence breaks out in Addis Ababa after CUD claims the EPRDF fixed its victory; 193 protesters and seven policemen die.

* December 24, 2006 - Ethiopia sends troops into Somalia to drive hardline Islamists from power. Analysts say Meles was backed by the United States and the move underlines the close ties he has built with the West since ousting the communists.

* January 2009 - Ethiopian troops withdraw from Somalia after battling an insurgency ever since the invasion.

* December 2009 - Meles represents the African continent at the Copenhagen climate talks and cements his position as one of its leading statesman, despite accusations from the opposition that he behaves more like an autocrat at home.

* May 24, 2010 - Provisional election results are expected to return Meles to power amid accusations of fraud and intimidation. He tells Reuters on Sunday he never expected to be in power for so long.

“It’s happened,” he said. “I don’t regret it but I just hope that, at the end of it all, it will have been worth it.”

Editing by David Clarke