Longtime Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has died of an illness at age 57, according to Ethiopian state television.
“Prime Minister Meles Zenawi passed away yesterday evening at around midnight,” goverenment spokesman Bereket Simon said Tuesday, adding that the Zenawi “was abroad” when he died. “He has been struggling to be healthy in the last year … one of the best things about him was that he never considered that he was ill and he was up to the job every time, every day, every evening.”
Prior to his death, Meles hadn’t been seen in public for about two months. In mid-July, after Meles did not attend a meeting of heads of state of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, speculation increased that his health problems were serious.
Born on May 8, 1955, Meles became president in 1991 and prime minister in 1995, a position that is both the head of the federal government and armed forces.
During the course of his 21-year reign, Meles, one of Africa’s most powerful and divisive leaders, was credited with steering Ethiopia towards economic growth and praised for his army’s support against Al Qaeda-linked militants in neighboring Somalia.
Meles also played a key role in brokering peace efforts between newly independent South Sudan and its former civil war foe Sudan.
In light of Zenawi’s death, Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, 47, will take over interim power.
“According to the Ethiopian constitution the deputy prime minister will have to go to parliament and take the oath, and the government is organizing the parliament to be summoned as soon as possible,” Bereket said.
Ethiopian state TV said funeral arrangements for Meles would be announced soon.
CNN has more on Meles Zenawi’s death in the video below: