Friday, August 31, 2012

Ethiopia prepares for Meles’ funeral

(Aug 31, 2012, iOL)--Ethiopia will bury its longtime powerful prime minister Meles Zenawi on Sunday in the first state funeral staged for a leader of the Horn of Africa nation in more than 80 years. 

Several African leaders are expected to attend the funeral to pay tribute to Meles, a heavyweight in regional politics since he took power in 1991 after toppling dictator Mengistu Hailemariam.  They will include neighbouring Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh, Kenya's Mwai Kibaki and South Sudan's Salva Kiir, as well as Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni.
China, the European Union and the United States are also expected to send senior officials. 

The funeral will begin in Addis Ababa's vast Meskel Square, before heading to the National Palace, where Meles' flag-draped coffin has been on display since it was flown home after his death in a Brussels hospital on August 20. While Ethiopia has hosted a series of state funerals in recent decades - including that of popular musician Tilahun Gessesse in 2009 - the last leader to be so honoured was Empress Zawditu in 1930.  The country's last emperor, Haile Selassie, was murdered in 1975 by coup leaders, who later buried him under a toilet in the National Palace. 

The body of the deposed emperor - regarded as god by Rastafarians - was later exhumed and a funeral held for him in 2000, although officials did not declare it a state funeral. His body is buried inside Holy Trinity Church in Addis Ababa, where Meles too will be laid to rest, located behind the National Palace. Read more from iOL »

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Statement from Ethiopia's acting Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn

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