allAfrica.com -- In a rare display, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi put aside his prepared speech and made an impassioned personal statement about Africa, its leaders and youth and about himself.
A young Kenyan lady seems to have provoked the exceptionally emotional words from Meles.
Young Edwina on Thursday criticized African leaders at the UNECA for not giving due attention to the youth.
"In this conference hall the young people sit at the back. As young people we are here today because we have a critical role to play in building Africa that we want to inherit and I am sure that the adults in this room are here because they would like to renew their commitment to working with us for that," Edwina said during the forum dubbed Youth and 21st Century Leadership.
Edwina complained that African youth were fed-up of the series of speeches delivered by leaders who are not committed to what they say. "Even though we, in general, represent the better-off youth, we have our frustrations in common, from being exploited as perpetual volunteers, to constantly being used for show usually at the last minute and worst of all we have to listen to the many speeches and commitments, existing only on paper about young people being leaders of tomorrow, while the makers of these speeches have no idea about the dreams, vision or even the typical day of a young person."
Impressed by the young lady whom he said spoke form the heart Meles began with the words that African youth were well aware of their challenges. He said it was clearly reflected in the young lady's speech.
"The challenges of the African youth are the mirror image of the challenges of the continent as a whole," Meles told the conference.
He said Africa was the only continent that could not solely determine its own political destiny and the only continent which was not making serious progress in terms of economic transformation.
"And this is not for lack of trying. We tried many alternatives. We tried the post independence alternative. We tried the post independence alternative in mid 1980s. Then we tried a new package since mid 80s. Nothing has worked," he said.
"There is a technical definition of madness. Madness is to do things over and over again but to expect different results. We have been doing this over and over again since the mid 80s expecting different results every time. Now this is unlikely to be because all African leaders are technically mad. I think that is happening because first, the balance of economic, political and diplomatic forces are such that maintaining the beaten track even if it's a dead end, appears to be the only option. I think it is also partly because most African leaders are not that young," Meles said.
Meles who has hardly spoken about himself publicly at such personal level said: "The main difference between me- Meles now- and Meles 35 years ago is that Meles 35 years ago, as a young person, had the courage and ambition to storm the heaven. Meles now does not have the same type of ambition and courage."
The youth at the gathering went laughing and applauding when he asked: "Why, Why has the fear of God been introduced in to Meles?"
"I think it's partly because of the experience of defeats, the achievements, and the experience of life itself which makes a person wiser and at the same time less courageous and less ambitious. If we could combine the wisdom of age and the courage and ambition of youth then we can break out of a mad situation of doing over and over the same thing," Meles said.
"It is appropriate that we recognize that certain forces have played a negative role-by design or by default- they have played a negative role in Africa."
Despite his belief that there are many who deserve to be blamed however, he stressed it was also for Africans to change the balance "in favor of sanity and against madness."
Meles mildly Chided Edwina's criticism of African leaders by saying that it was easier for the youth to blame their "older and less courageous leaders."
"By all means blame us, because there is enough blame to go around. But in the final analysis don't act like a victim. Don't act like the blamed. See what you could do, that you are not doing. And start by doing that," he advised the youth.
About 1000 delegates, of whom 250 were African youth, participated in the meeting.
Participants deliberated on the new African Youth Charter, aimed at enabling the youth to involve in African development strategies.
The out going UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, Chair Person of the African Union, Professor Alpha Oumar Konare, President of the African Development Bank, Mr. Donald Kabe Ruka, and Executive Secretary of ECA, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, urged all stakeholders to work hard for the endorsement and implementation of the youth charter.
VIDEO - Protesters: Meles is Anti-Ethiopian
Ethiopian protesters who converged on Brussels from different European countries have condemned the Ethiopian tyrant Meles Zenawi outside the Expositions while some were protesting inside the conference room.
The self-crowned prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, invited by Mr. Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, to lecture on good governance. More details on Ethiomedia.