Ethiopian Press Agency (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Untimely Death....

Thousands of mourners have paid their final respects to Ethiopia's former leader Meles Zenawi, who died last month after 21 years in power. Meles had ... ( Resource: Ethiopia's Zenawi laid to rest

The Council of Ministers of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia announced on Tuesday morning that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had died on August 20th at 11:40 pm at the hospital where he was under medical treatment. In a statement the Council of Ministers said Prime Minister Meles had been undergoing medical treatment over the previous two months. He had recently been showing remarkable improvement, but had unfortunately had to be admitted back to hospital two days earlier when his condition worsened due to a sudden infection. All attempts by his physicians to treat this were unsuccessful, and the Prime Minister died at 11:40 p.m. on August 20th.

The body of the Prime Minister was flown back to Addis Ababa the following evening, and thousands turned out on Tuesday evening to receive it on arrival at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa. A military band played as the coffin, draped in an Ethiopian flag, was taken from the Ethiopian Airlines flight. The ceremony was attended by ministers, military and religious leaders, diplomats and others. The arrival of the body was broadcast live by Ethiopian Television as well as other local media which also showed scenes of mourning as thousands huddled in the rain waiting to pay their respects as the coffin passed slowly through the streets. Many carried photographs of Prime Minister Meles; others held up placards reading: "Meles, your legacy will never die." The widespread grief was palpable; the passing of a leader who had been in power for over twenty years stunned and saddened the entire country. The Government declared a state of national mourning to last until the funeral takes place on September 2nd._ In the meantime the coffin has been taken to the Grand Palace where Meles' body is now lying in state until the funeral service on September 2nd. Increasingly, crowds have also been passing through his residence to pay their respects to his family.

The National Committee set up to organize the arrangements for the funeral and burial of Prime Minister Meles announced this week that the funeral will be held a week on Sunday, on September 2nd. The National Committee said that various subcommittees have been set up to deal with different aspects of the occasion. The Committee said that the way people had welcomed the body of the late Prime Minister back to Addis Ababa demonstrated just how close he had been to the hearts of the people, and it said it would be making proper arrangements for the public to pay homage to the late Prime Minister.

The Council of Ministers' statement noted that Prime Meles Zenawi was a far-sighted and visionary leader who gave his all to the cause of extricating Ethiopia and its peoples from poverty and backwardness, and above all had great love and clear vision for Ethiopia and its peoples. He had built a party and a government that had started to turn his aims and his vision into reality, raising Ethiopia's stature high in the international arena. He was instrumental in drawing up the right mix of policies for the country and had, by his leadership, placed Ethiopia on the path of democracy and development, ensuring that a renaissance of the nation was realizable, and was within reach. He was the chief architect of the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan, to the successful implementation of which he fully dedicated himself, despite nursing a serious medical condition for the past two years.

Under his great leadership not only has peace and stability been maintained in Ethiopia, the country has also made tremendous contributions towards sustainable peace and stability elsewhere, in Somalia, on Sudan and South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Liberia. The statement said history and Africa as a whole will always remain grateful for his contributions. He, along with other African colleagues, created the NEPAD Programme in order to allow Africa's voice to be heard and for the continent to take its rightful place in global trade and development, in democracy and good governance, as well as peace and stability. He made sure Ethiopia would be the first to implement these ideas and play a responsible role in Africa. He was an example to all peoples of Africa, a great leader who lit the bright candle of hope in Ethiopia.

The statement said Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, as the voice of the developing world, successfully fought for a just and equitable global economic system. As a great leader who believed in safe and balanced use of global natural resources, he made Ethiopia a show case of Green economic development. His wisdom and vision rightly received international recognition and acclaim. He made relentless efforts to put in place a constitutional democratic system that could guarantee peoples' equality and citizens' human and democratic rights, good governance and improvement for the livelihood of the millions living in poverty._ He was a great son of Africa and an apostle of change. His death is a massive loss to Ethiopia and indeed to Africa.

The Council of Ministers' took comfort and solace from the fact that he had left behind a solid democratic and developmental constitutional system._ His ideas and vision for change have become ideals of 80 million Ethiopians. His initiatives on behalf of a democratic developmental system have ushered in new hope and a determination for change and for a better life for all Ethiopians and indeed more widely. His policies and strategies, implemented through the determination and tireless efforts of he himself and of his colleagues in party, government, and throughout the country, have clearly shown their capacity to provide for the rapid change and development of Ethiopia. His constitutional developmental democratic system is built on firm foundations. Ethiopia, the Council emphasized, will always be proud of Prime Minister Meles' achievements, and it remains confident that the efforts at making Ethiopia's renaissance a reality have indeed become irreversible. The basic polices and strategies that are the fruits of Prime Minister Meles' intellect will continue to be implemented. The individual and group rights enshrined in the Constitution will continue to be consolidated. The efforts of building democratic institutions will continue along the path and the vision set out by Prime Minister Meles.

The Council statement also underlined that the constructive and peaceful role that Ethiopia has been playing in the Horn of Africa and in Africa at large, to ensure mutual benefit for all, will continue unchanged and with vigour. Ethiopia will remain, today as in the past, an example of good neighbourliness. Its constructive role within the African Union and the international community will continue to be based on the vision and directions laid out by Prime Minister Meles. The Council of Ministers emphasized that Ethiopia would remain committed to the excellent relations it has established with all its partners and friends.

The Council of Ministers expressed its real appreciation of the outpouring of heartfelt love from the peoples of Ethiopia for the Prime Minister when they learnt of his illness. The followers of all faiths have been praying for his recovery. The Council said it was deeply appreciative of this tremendous torrent of support during this tragic period and of the dedication of the peoples of Ethiopia to the peace and stability of the country. It called upon all Ethiopians to endure these trying times with traditional Ethiopian fortitude and unity and asked them to work hand in hand to ensure Ethiopia's sustainable development, peace and the interests of its peoples for the future. The Council of Ministers' statement said that while the loss of the country's visionary leader was one loss too many, Ethiopians today more than ever were duty bound to act together to implement Prime Minister Meles' vision for change and for the building of a developed and prosperous Ethiopia. It called on all Ethiopians to redouble their efforts to endure this difficult time and to ensure that Ethiopia would indeed achieve the goals laid out for it by "its visionary leader".

The Council offered its heartfelt gratitude to all the medical personnel who had done everything possible to provide Prime Minister Meles with the necessary medical support during his illness. It also expressed its appreciation to all world leaders, who over the previous two months had expressed their best wishes and support for the Prime Minister.

President Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti said he was deeply sorrowed to learn the death of "Djibouti's great brother". "In this difficult time, the Government and People of Djibouti express their solidarity to the people of Ethiopia. Meles' determination to bring his country among the top economic powers in the continent has started yielding fruit. As a role model for courage and conviction, Meles will be remembered for his brave fight against terrorism and violence in the region. Africa has lost one of its best men."

Uganda's President, Yoweri Musevini, said the death of Prime Minister Meles was not only a tragic loss to the people of Ethiopia but to the entire continent of Africa. "The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will always be remembered for his historic struggle for the unity of the great people of Ethiopia and his contribution towards the economic transformation of his country. As for Africa, we have been robbed of a great Pan- Africanist and a reliable partner in the struggle to bring peace and stability as well as the economic emancipation of the continent."

Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki,_said: "On behalf of the Government and the People of Kenya, I convey our deepest sympathies to the family of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the Government and People of Ethiopia following this devastating loss," adding that "the late Prime Minister is a pragmatic and visionary leader who helped stabilize his country and placed it on the economic growth path."

South Sudanese Information Minister, Barnaba Benjamin, said "it's a very, very sad day for the people of the Republic of South Sudan and the people of the East African region as a whole... We in South Sudan in particular, consider Ethiopia and especially Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a strategic ally that always never let a friend down. Indeed we greatly mourn him and we extend our extensive condolences to the people of Ethiopia." South Sudan has declared three days of national mourning for Prime Minister Meles.

President Zuma of South Africa described Meles' death as "an absolute tragedy for Africa and the people of Ethiopia to mourn such an exceptional leader who contributed as an active role-player in various continental and global initiatives". He had been a strong leader, not only for his country but on the African continent, acting as mediator on numerous talks, particularly in the Horn of Africa region.

President Jonathan of Nigeria described Meles' death as a major loss for Africa. "He was a great African statesman, who was also a friend of Nigeria, a nation-builder and a great servant of the Ethiopian people," he said, adding that "he held strong convictions about establishing a just and prosperous society for his people, a cause to which he devoted his considerable energies, and which deservedly earned him respect and honor among a grateful Ethiopian nation." President Jonathan acknowledged Prime Minister Meles's vision for a united and strong Africa, and said "The passing of Prime Minister Zenawi at this time when Ethiopia and, indeed, all of Africa, stood to benefit from his wisdom and experience in building a stable and prosperous continent is a great loss that will be hard to remedy," he said. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo noted that the death of Meles Zenawi had robbed Africa of a "committed, forthright, visionary and fearless leader....I have seen his performance at the African Union and it is because of his brilliance that leaders of Africa and I decided to hand over the AU NEPAD programme to him."

Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, said Meles was an economic transformer and a strong intellectual leader for the continent. She added "in our regional meetings he stood out because of his intellect and his ability to respond and to lead dialogue on matters relating to African development. He will be missed in all of our meetings and all of our endeavours".

The African Union Commission in a statement expressed its heartfelt condolences on "the untimely passing away of Ato Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia" adding that "The Commission will remember the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for his exceptional contribution to the advancement of the objectives of the AU and the promotion of Africa's interests in the global fora." The Commission also salutes Ethiopia's contribution, under Prime Minister Meles's leadership, to the promotion of peace and security in Africa, both within the framework of the AU and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). It added: "In this respect, mention should be made of the deployment of Ethiopian peacekeepers to Burundi, Liberia and Abyei, as part of AU or United Nations Missions, as well as the support extended to the Somali authorities and AMISOM in their efforts to defeat terrorism and extremism in Somalia and pave the way for lasting peace and reconciliation in that country." The Commission said " Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has also overseen the dramatic transformation of his country, which is today one of the top economic performers on the continent."_ Expressing its deepest condolences the Commission said "The death of Meles has robbed Africa of one of its greatest sons".

The Executive Secretary of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Engineer Mahboub Maalim, in a letter of condolence said that he and members of IGAD have learnt with great sorrow and shock the untimely passing away of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. "It is a great loss not only for Africa but to IGAD and the continent. During his five years chairmanship, the IGAD region greatly benefited from his wise leadership and his valuable contribution to the development of IGAD as a regional institution. Under his leadership IGAD shone in the international arena due to his successful management of the volatile situation affecting the region. He tirelessly worked for peace in Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Liberia. IGAD's fraternity will sorely miss the great man with a focused vision and brilliant leadership. His vision of regional economic integration and infrastructural development including the Great Renaissance Dam were inspirational to all of us."

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