Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is seen in this 2007 photo.
Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s long-time ruler who held tight control over the country but was a major U.S counter-terrorism ally, died of an undisclosed illness after not being seen in public for about two months, Ethiopian authorities announced yesterday. Speculation that Meles, 57, was seriously ill grew after he failed to attend an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last month, Reuters reported.
Meles seized power in 1991 from Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military junta, which was responsible for hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian deaths. Meles became prime minister in 1995, a position that is both the head of the federal government and armed forces. Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn would be the acting prime minister, said Bereket Simon, the communications minister. Somali militants hailed the death as an “historic day” and said Ethiopia, which has troops inside Somalia, would now crumble. “We are very glad about Meles’ death. Ethiopia is sure to collapse,” Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, the spokesman for al-Shabaab told Reuters.