awate.com has learned from its sources in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is dead.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Hailemariam Desalegen, who is also Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, has assumed the position of Prime Minister.
There are now indications that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has not made a public appearance for two months, died some unspecified time ago and that the Ethiopian ruling party had kept the information secret to ensure a smooth transition of power.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was rumored to be suffering from an acute but unspecified illness with various sources claiming that he was being hospitalized in a Belgian hospital or an American military base hospital in Germany.
The Ethiopian government had scheduled a press conference on July 18 to provide clarity on the health of the prime minister but the conference was cancelled and, since then, the government spokesperson had been stating that the prime minister would return “very soon.”
As recently as last week, the Ethiopian government spokesperson had assured its readers that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi would return before “the coming Ethiopian New Year,” which begins on September 11.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been Ethopia’s president or prime minister since the front he led, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its coalition parties which make up the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) assumed power in Ethiopia in May 1991 by overthrowing Mengistu Hailemariam, who is now exiled in Zimbabwe.
Until May 1998, which saw the eruption of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the TPLF and Eritrea’s ruling party, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF, now PFDJ) were strong allies. Since then, the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Eritrean government of President Isaias Afwerki have made public declarations that the containment and/or removal from power of the other was a prerequisite to regional peace.
The naming of Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is unlikely to silence the debate within the Ethiopian opposition that the Ethiopian constitution does not provide clarity on who should be Ethiopia’s prime minister upon death or disability of the prime minister.
awate.com will update its readers as soon as additional confirmed information is received.
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Update 1: 8/21/12: Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers issued a statement which partially states that the prime minister “passed away on August 20th at 11:40 pm at the hospital where he was under medical treatment.” No information was given on what he was being treated for, and where.
The statement’s wording on the new role of Hailemariam Desalegn is as follows: “His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will, in accordance with the FDRE Constitution, continue to carry out the responsibilities of heading the Council of Ministers.” The statement does NOT explicitly say that he is the new Prime Minister.
Update 2: 8/21/12: Aljazeera TV is reporting that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was receiving treatment at Saint-Luc University Hospital in Brussels, Belgium.
Update 3: 8/22/12: Monitoring Tuesday’s (8/21) EU press briefing, Ethiopian journalist Daniel Berhane (Danielberhane Blog) reports that the EU spokesperson Olivier Bailly confirmed that Meles Zenawi passed away on Monday night.
Update 4: 8/23/12: Daily Telegraph reports on 8/22: “He [Hailemariam Desalegn] will be the prime minister until 2015. He is to be sworn in and he is to finish the five-year term of government and that is indisputable,” Mr Bereket told Reuters by telephone.