Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Zenawi’s Death: Ethiopia 'Stable', Says Govt

(Aug 21, 2012, ThisDay Live)--Ethiopia's government has insisted the country is stable following the death of long-time Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at the age of 57. Meles died at a hospital in the Belgian capital, Brussels, late on Monday after a long illness, reports the BBC.

His body has been flown back to the capital, Addis Ababa, and a period of national mourning has been announced. State media reported that Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn would take over until elections in 2015.

Meles's death has sparked fears of a leadership vacuum which could lead to instability in Ethiopia. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga is among those who have expressed concern that Meles's death could herald a period of instability for Ethiopia.

He told the BBC the situation in Ethiopia was "very fragile" and that he was unsure whether the country was "sufficiently prepared for his succession". "One would hope they could contain the various factions within the government so that the transition is smooth," he said.

Meles's death was celebrated by the al-Shabab Islamist militant group in Somalia - where he twice sent troops to fight. They told Reuters that Ethiopia was "sure to collapse". But at a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian government spokesman, Bereket Simon said that Hailemariam had been appointed acting prime minister.

"There will be no election as the constitutional procedure allows us to continue with the deputy prime minister acting as prime minister for now," he said. "He will take over in parliament and then he will kick off as a full-fledged prime minister." Bereket said the parliament, which is currently in recess, would reconvene as soon as possible to start the process and swear in Hailemariam.

Meles had not been seen in public for weeks and speculation about his health mounted when he missed a summit in Addis Ababa last month The Council of Ministers announced his death on state TV on Tuesday. The statement said Meles had been receiving medical treatment abroad for the past two months and that his health was improving. But he developed a "sudden infection" on Sunday and despite emergency treatment, died at 23:40 on Monday.

Foreign ministry spokesman, Dina Mufti said Meles had been "the greatest leader that Ethiopia has witnessed" and that the country was in shock. But he said it was now time to work together and "bypass this challenge". There would be no change in foreign or domestic policy, he said.
Source: ThisDay Live

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