Pretoria: Cabinet has expressed its condolences to the people of Ethiopia following the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
“Cabinet conveys its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the government and the people of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the passing away of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,” said Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi on Wednesday following its fortnightly meeting.
Zenawi was being treated abroad at a hospital for an undisclosed illness when he had a “sudden infection” and passed away on Monday. His body arrived at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital late Tuesday.
Families and relatives of the late prime minister, senior government officials, Ethiopian citizens and foreigners had been waiting for the arrival of the body.
National flags are being kept half-mast as the country goes into mourning.
According to the Ethiopian constitution, the Deputy Prime Minister is taking over as the acting prime minister.
Born in 1955 in Adwa, in North Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Zenawi received his elementary education at the Queen of Sheba Junior Secondary School in Adwa and completed high school in 1972 at General Wingate School in Addis Ababa. He then joined the Medical Faculty of the prestigious Addis Ababa University where he studied for two years.
Zenawi interrupted his studies in 1974 to join the Tigrai People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the fight against the previous Derg regime. He was elected to the leadership committee of the TPLF in 1979 and to its executive committee in 1983. Since 1989, he had been chairman of both the TPLF and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a political alliance of the four main political organizations in the country.
Upon the defeat of the military junta, Zenawi became president of the transitional government from 1991 to 1995. He was elected prime minister in 1995 and had been the country’s prime minister till his death.