Meles Zenawi dies at the age of 57 [Text&Video]
By Dawit Kebede
State-owned Ethiopian TV has reported today that the premier has passed away yesterday from a sudden infection. ETV has been featuring the images of Meles Zenawi while playing instrumental music in the background.
“His body will be returned to Ethiopia soon, we have set up a committee to organize his funeral. More information will be released about that soon.” said Bereket Simon, head of government communication office.
The council of ministers has declared a national mourning and decided to fly the national flag at half-staff. According to Bereket, the deputy Prime Minister and minister of foreign affairs, Hailemariam Desalegn, will be acting head of government. “As per Ethiopian law, Hailemariam Desalegn has now taken over the leadership. The government will continue. Our policies and institutions will continue. Nothing will change in Ethiopia.” Bereket added.
Meles was born in Adwa, Tigray in Northern Ethiopia. He graduated from the General Wingate high school in Addis Ababa, then studied medicine at Addis Ababa University for two years before interrupting his studies in 1975 to join the TPLF. While a member of the TPLF, he founded the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray. His first name at birth was “Legesse” but he is better known by his nom de guerre Meles. He later changed his first name to “Meles” in honor of a University student and a revolutionary radical who was executed by the previous military junta in 1975.
The TPLF was one of many armed groups struggling against Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam. Zenawi was elected Leader of the Leadership Committee in 1979 and Leader of the Executive Committee in 1983. He has been the chairperson of both the TPLF and the EPRDF since the EPRDF assumed power in 1991. He was president of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), during which Eritrea seceded from the country and the experiment of ethnic federalism started.
Meles Zenawi acquired an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from the Open University of the United Kingdom in 1995 and an MSc. (Masters of Science) in Economics from the Erasmus University of the Netherlands in 2004. In July 2002 Meles received an honorary doctoral degree in political science from the Hannam University in South Korea.
Meles Zenawi is married to Azeb Mesfin and is the father of three children. Azeb Mesfin is now the chair of the Social Affairs Standing Committee of Parliament.
On 18 June, 2012 Meles resurfaced in Los Cabos, Mexico at the G-20 annual meeting but his appearance in Mexico was untimely as he looked gravely ill. In July 2012, questions more arose concerning his health when he did not attend African Union summit meetings in the Ethiopian capital. Ethiopian National Transitional Council and Ethiopian Satellite Television claimed that Meles has already died as of July 16 while undergoing treatment in Belgium. Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn attributed Meles’s absence to a minor illness. A press conference, during which the government planned to clarify the Prime Minister’s health status, was scheduled for July 18 but postponed until later in the week. Meanwhile, the government acknowledged that Meles had been hospitalized, but that his condition was not serious. Diplomatic sources claimed that Meles was in critical condition in a Belgian hospital before the official announcement of his death.