Post COP15: Zenawi vs Western Media

Pragmatist or a sellout?

Zenawi and his counterparts at COP15

That was the question, which surfaced the web media in order to describe Ethiopia’s ruler, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, while he was in Copenhagen as Africa’s “Chief Climate Change Negotiator”. put together the following summary of articles from the Western media that both praised and criticized the ruler:

The BBC‘s correspondent Richard Black writes,

“Ethiopia’ President[sic] Meles Zenawi emerged as Africa’s political victor – the chosen champion of France and the UK as they sought African support for their finance proposal. He delivered the African Union.”

The Guardian writes,

“In the end, the west exerted its traditional influence in Africa. President[sic] Meles was courted strongly by presidents Sarkozy, Brown and Obama in the days before the world leaders met, to try to bring Africa aboard the west’s deal.

Meles proposed that developing countries accept $100bn a year – a remarkably similar sum to what the west had suggested. The accusations soon flew that Ethiopia had been bought and Meles was immediately slapped down by his peers.

Africa ended the talks divided, but knowing that it now plays a far more important role in the new politics of climate change.”

Naomi Klein wrote this in the Guardian,

“And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2C increase and offers developing countries just $10bn a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.

It’s hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was saying this: “We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position … If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent … What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level.”And this: “We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests.”

We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400bn a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10bn.”

Peter Wilson writing for The Australian has the kindest words for Meles Zenawi. He writes,

“The average Australian would never have heard of Meles Zenawi but if the search for a real climate deal makes any progress over the next few months then Mr Meles might just be remembered as the man who helped to protect Australia as well as his own continent from the worst effects of climate change. Acting on his own initiative, Mr Meles delighted organizers of the summit by putting back into motion one of the key deadlocked issues.”

The problem for Meles’s critics was that the 54-year-old Ethiopian had laid the groundwork for his proposal so skilfully and quietly that he had left his opponents with little time and few options to thwart him.

And The Washington Post writes,

“Prime Minister Meles Zenawi played a key role as spokesman for African countries, and by extension for the least-developed countries gathered at this conference. He helped create one of conference’s few bright spots, agreeing to an offer from the industrialized world to provide $30 billion a year to help poor countries adapt to the effects of climate change.”


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