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Spokesman: Ethiopia PM's Death No Cause for Worry

  • VOA News

 Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon (R) makes the official announcement of the death of PM Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, August 21, 2012.

Ethiopian government spokesman Bereket Simon (R) makes the official announcement of the death of PM Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, August 21, 2012.

Ethiopia's communications minister says there is "no worry" about the country's future after the death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for more than 20 years.

Minister Bereket Simon told VOA the leadership is united and the government is "strong as ever." He rejected concerns about a power vacuum.

"The policies, the strategies, that have enabled us to register massive growth are in place," he said. "The party is strong as ever, government is as strong as ever, the leadership is as united as ever. So there is no worry. There is no worry at all."

The spokesman says acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will be sworn in and serve the remaining three years of Mr. Meles' five-year term.

Mr. Meles died late Monday from an infection while being treated abroad, according to the spokesman.

In a statement Tuesday, a rebel group in Ethiopia's Ogaden region suggested the leader's death may lead to greater stability and peace.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) described the late prime minister as a "dictator" who had caused "unimaginable suffering" to the Ogaden people.

The ONLF has been fighting for self-determination in Ogaden, also known as the Somali region, since 1984. The rebels and the government frequently accuse each other of wrongdoing and atrocities.

Leaders around the world reacted to news of the prime minister's death.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Mr. Meles deserved recognition for fighting poverty and developing the country. He said he is grateful for the prime minister's service for peace and security in Africa. Under Mr. Meles, Ethiopia has been an ally in the U.S. war on terrorism.

Other leaders, including South African President Jacob Zuma and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki praised Mr. Meles' leadership and said his death is a major loss for Africa.

However, Human Rights Watch said he put economic development above human rights. The group's Africa director, Leslie Lefkow, predicted Prime Minister Meles' legacy will be tarnished by human rights abuses.

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