Ethiopian Prime Minister Dead


The New York Times reports that Meles Zenawi, Ethopia's prime minister, who hoisted the country from the decay of civil war and helped it become one of Africa's swiftest-growing economies and one of the United States' closest African allies, died on Monday.

A European Commission spokesman said that he died at a hospital in Brussels. He had been in declining health for months and died after developing a secondary infection, according to Ethiopian authorities. He was 57.

A former rebel leader who had dropped out of medical school in the 1970s to fight Ethiopia's former Communist government, Mr. Meles was considered one of Africa's shrewdest and most intelligent leaders. He was known to be a voracious reader with a steel-trap mind who could rapidly digest mountains of statistics and quote large chunks of Shakespeare. He worked closely with Washington to combat Muslim extremism in the Horn of Africa, though there were growing complaints, even among his backers, about his penchant for violently quashing any dissent.

After becoming prime minister in 1995, Mr. Meles steadily concentrated power, boxing out rivals and creating a fearful atmosphere where criticism was not tolerated and journalists and opposition politicians were jailed.

Hailemariam Desalegn, the minister of foreign affairs and deputy prime minister, will become the new premier, the government announced on Tuesday. It was considered unlikely that he would command the same authority as Mr. Meles, and some were sure to see him as little more than a figurehead for a government that remains tightly controlled by Mr. Meles's Tigrayan ethnic minority group from northern Ethiopia.


Read more at the New York Times.