He was a leader who managed both to lift millions of his country’s citizens from poverty and to play the role of regional power-broker and anti-terror hawk. He was also a central figure in peace negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan, boosted the presence of the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, and was regularly called upon as a “voice of Africa” abroad.
That friendship has developed further amid the US’s growing concern about terrorism in Africa. Washington says terrorist groups have found safe haven in neighboring Somalia, and under President Obama, Meles has allowed US unmanned drones to take off from his country’s airports for spying missions over his chaotic neighbor. He has also twice invaded Somalia to pursue Ethiopian domestic rebels and their ally, the Islamic Courts Union, which the US believes has harbored Al Qaeda.