Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said the death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Menes Zenawi has robbed Africa of a “committed, forthright, visionary and fearless leader.”
Zenawi, 57, died on Tuesday from a sudden infection while recovering from an undisclosed ailment at a hospital abroad.
Obasanjo said Zenawi was one of the bright lights of leadership in present day Africa.
“He has shown the sterner stuff that he is made of in fighting for his country’s emancipation from the rudderless, despotic military dictatorship to bringing his country up in development terms as one of the beacons of Africa. I have seen his performance at the African Union (AU), and it is because of his brilliance that leaders of Africa and I decided to hand over the AU NEPAD programme to him.
“His death robs Africa of a committed, forthright, visionary and fearless leader. I condole with his family, the people, the government and his successor,” Obasanjo said, adding that his death was a shock to him.
Ethiopian television is quoted as saying that Zenawi’s body would be returned to Ethiopia soon, while a committee had been set up to organise his funeral. The television stated that Hailemariam Desalegn, his deputy, would act as prime minister.
“Nothing in Ethiopia will change. The government will continue. Our policies and institutions will continue. Nothing will change in Ethiopia. Desalegn will be confirmed by parliament.”
Zenawi had been in power since overthrowing Mengistu Haile Mariam’s junta in 1991. He served as president from 1991 to 1995, when he became prime minister. Zenawi was credited with Ethiopia’s economic boom in the past decade, with economic growth shooting from 3.8% in the 1990s to 10% in 2010. However, in 2005, nearly 200 people died in a crackdown on demonstrations by the opposition which accused Zenawi of rigging elections.