Ethiopia faces succession crisis after premier's death
THE sudden death of Ethiopia's prime minister yesterday plunged one of the West's key African allies into a succession crisis and raised fears of increased insecurity in a volatile region.
Ethiopian state television announced that Meles Zenawi had died from a "sudden infection" following treatment for a mystery illness in a Brussels hospital. He was 57.
He had not been seen in public since June and speculation about his health had increased, despite consistent statements from his government that he was "resting" and would return to work "soon".
"He has been struggling to be healthy in the last year," said Bereket Simon, Ethiopia's communications minister.
"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."
Mr Meles led the continent's second most populous country -- 84 million people from 87 different ethnic groups -- for more than 20 years, after marching into its capital at the head of a guerrilla army to oust dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991.
The one-time Marxist-Leninist advocate of Albania's far-left brand of state socialism became a darling of international donors, who praised the prime minister's policies for lifting millions of Ethiopians out of abject poverty.
Bill Clinton once called him one of a "new breed of African democrats" and Tony Blair said he was a "visionary leader".
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, hailed his "exceptional leadership", adding that he was "deeply saddened" by Mr Meles's death.
But Mr Meles was increasingly seen as despotic and autocratic, crushing dissent, jailing critical journalists and bloggers and, during the 2005 election, deploying troops who opened fire on protesters, killing as many as 200.
It was not immediately clear who was Mr Meles's preferred successor. (© Daily Telegraph, London)