Columbia’s invitation to Zenawi sparks outrage (Columbia Spectator)
Throughout the week, the World Leaders Forum will bring heads of state from around the world to address Columbia.
But as far as controversy goes, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi tops the list.
Zenawi—who has allegedly intimidated voters at polls, detained political opponents, and been labeled by the New York Times as an example of “autocratic repression”—is set to appear at Low Library on Wednesday to give a talk on “The Current Global Environment and its Impact in Africa.”
Many people, on and off campus, have spoken out against his invitation.
“He’s supposed to be a spokesman on African leadership, and I think that’s absurd because he’s not,” said Haben Fecadu, a student in the law school and vice-chair of the African Law Students Association.
RELATED: Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi will speak at Columbia Wednesday. Does this global university have a global conscience? (Editorial, Columbia Spectator)
On Wednesday, Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia, will speak beneath the rotunda of Low Library as a guest at Columbia’s annual World Leaders Forum. According to the WLF website, Zenawi will discuss “the current global environment and its impact in Africa.” What that means, exactly, we are not certain. But we are certain that Zenawi’s presence on campus should give us pause.
Meles Zenawi is not a household name, but he is a despot. His government has carried out numerous extrajudicial killings, imprisoned political dissidents, and brutally suppressed protests by activists at Addis Ababa University.
When Columbia first announced Zenawi as an invitee to the WLF, the Forum’s website referred to his “seasoned governmental leadership” and noted the many “progresses” his government has made. After a significant outcry, Zenawi’s bio was removed. The University claimed the bio was provided by the Ethiopian Mission to the United Nations and published in error, as well as that the “editorial policy of the World Leaders Forum website has been to provide only the basic factual information” about speakers. Perhaps the actual publication of the bio was an honest mistake. But the fact that the University allowed such a glowing description of Zenawi to be published on its own website suggests that it did not consider the gravity of inviting such a politician to speak at Columbia.