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World leaders mourn death of Ethiopia PM

21 August 2012, 17:43

Nairobi - Leaders from various countries and organisations on Tuesday mourned the death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi after the strongman's more than two decades in power.

His death at age 57 leaves a major power gap in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has played a key role in the fortunes of many of its neighbours, as well as host to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

President Jacob Zuma praised Meles as "a strong leader, not only for his country but on the African continent" and the Horn of Africa in particular.

European commission

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso remembered him as a "respected African leader" during his 20 years in power.

Meles "demonstrated his strong personal commitment over many years to improving the lives of not just his own but all African peoples, through his work on African unity, climate change, development and in promoting peace and stability, particularly in the Horn of Africa," Barroso said in a statement of condolences.

Amid fears of a power vacuum now in the region, Barroso also expressed hopes that "Ethiopia will enhance its path of democratisation, upholding of human rights and prosperity for its people, and of further regional stabilisation and integration."

Kenya, South Sudan

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki called Meles a "pragmatic and visionary" leader who helped stabilise his country and placed it on the path of economic growth, adding that his death is a "devastating loss".

Meles played a key part in brokering peace efforts between newly independent South Sudan and its former civil war foe Sudan, a role praised by South Sudan's Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

"He was one person who could say in black and white what the position of both countries was - and was respected by both," Benjamin said.

"To South Sudan it is a sad story. He was great, not only in our strategic relations between South Sudan and Ethiopia, but also as chairperson of the African Union, tasked with finding peace between Sudan and the newly independent South," he said.


Uganda was "shocked and saddened" by the death of Meles, said Asuman Kiyingi, state minister for regional cooperation, adding it was a "big loss for the whole of Africa".

"He has been so instrumental in finding solutions to African problems," Kiyingi said, noting Meles' support for African Union forces battling al-Qaeda-linked Shebaab insurgents in Somalia.

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia for a second time last year - after a US-backed invasion in 2006 - and Ethiopia is supporting an AU force's fight against the Shebaab.


"It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi," UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement.

"His personal contribution to Ethiopia's development, in particular by lifting millions of Ethiopians out of poverty, has set an example for the region.

"Our thoughts are with his family and with the nation of Ethiopia. He will be greatly missed."

Cameron met Meles at several international summits. Meles, a former rebel fighter who came to power in 1991 after toppling the bloody dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, was last seen in public at the G20 summit in Mexico in June.

Meles, a former rebel fighter who came to power in 1991 after toppling the bloody dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, died in hospital abroad, the Ethiopian government said.

He had not been seen in public for two months, and had been reported to have been sick in a hospital in Brussels.



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