Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi dies from a sudden infection
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has died from a sudden infection while recovering from an undisclosed illness at a hospital abroad, the African nation's state-run television said on Tuesday.
Speculation that Meles, 57, was seriously ill grew after he failed to attend an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last month. "Prime Minister Zenawi suddenly passed away last night. Meles was recovering in a hospital overseas for the past two months but died of a sudden infection at 11:40," state television said.
State media said Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn would be the acting prime minister. Ethiopia's government said last month that Meles was taking a break to recover from an unspecified condition. Diplomats in Addis Ababa had said Meles was being treated in Brussels from an undisclosed illness, while others said he was in Germany.
Meles has been in power since ousting Mengistu Haile Mariam's military junta in 1991. He served as president from 1991 to 1995, when he became prime minister. He won praise in the West for helping spur economic growth and for his army's support against al Qaeda-linked militants in neighboring Somalia. But he also has been accused of crushing dissent, using national security concerns as an excuse to silence opposition figures and journalists. The government has dismissed those accusations. (Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Paul Simao)
Key dates in the political life of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
May 1955 - Legesse Zenawi is born in Adwa in Ethiopia's Tigray region. He later changes his name to Meles in tribute to an activist killed by the communist government. In 1974 Meles drops out of medical school and travels back to the Tigray bush to take part in a nationalist revolt against the dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. He helps found the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in 1975, taking over as leader in 1989. He broadens its ethnic Tigrayan power base by setting up the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, bringing in other ethnic groups.
May 1991 - Mengistu flees Ethiopia en route to Zimbabwe. Meles and his EPRDF rebels arrive in the capital Addis Ababa. Two months later, an interim government is formed with Meles as transitional president.
August 1995 - The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is proclaimed. The EPRDF sweeps to power in poorly contested elections and Meles becomes Ethiopia's first prime minister.
1998-2000 - Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ceded from Ethiopia in 1993, clash over their border. Up to 80,000 people are killed in the war.
May 2005 - Ethiopians vote in what is touted as the country's first truly democratic election. The opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) gains huge support in cities and towns. However, violence breaks out in Addis Ababa after CUD claims the EPRDF fixed the election -- 193 protesters and seven policemen are killed.
December 2006 - Ethiopia sends troops into Somalia to drive hardline Islamists from power. Analysts say Meles was backed by the United States and the move underlines the close ties he has built with the West since ousting the Mengistu's government. Ethiopian troops withdraw from Somalia in January 2009.
December 2009 - Meles represents the African continent at the Copenhagen climate talks and cements his position as one of its leading statesmen, despite accusations from the opposition that he behaves more like an autocrat at home.
May 2010 - The EPRDF wins nearly every seat in the country's 547-member parliament in elections, handing Meles a fourth term as prime minister. EU and U.S. observes say the vote "fell short" Of international standards. Opposition leaders demand that the election be held again.
April 2011 - Ethiopia declares openly that it will support Eritrean rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Isaias Afewerki. In March 2012, Ethiopia admitted its troops carried out more attacks on rebels inside Eritrea -- the first time Ethiopia has admitted such attacks since the end of their border war.
June 2012 - Ethiopia says it plans to keep its troops in Somalia until the Horn of Africa nation ratifies a constitution and its military is able to fend off militant threats. Ethiopian troops had crossed into Somalia in November 2011.
July 2012 - Rumours that Meles is seriously ill grow after he fails to attend the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
Aug. 21, 2012 - Ethiopian state television reports that Meles died of a sudden infection late on Aug. 20. State television said he had been recovering at a hospital abroad for the last two months and that Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is taking over as acting prime minister. (Reporting by David Cutler London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Paul Simao)