Ethiopia's prime minister dies, ending weeks of speculation about health. Posted by mohamed on August 21 2012 05:08:11Extended NewsEthiopia's prime minister dies, ending weeks of speculation about health.
From the CNN Wire Staff.
August 21, 2012 --
(CNN) -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has died, a government spokesman said Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation about his state of health.
Meles died at 11:40 p.m. Monday from an unspecified infection, spokesman Bereket Simon said. Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is now in charge.
There will be no elections before the next scheduled ballot in 2015, Bereket said.
Meles was out of the country when he died and members of his family were with him, according to Bereket. He did not say what country Meles's body was in or when it would return to Ethiopia, except that it would be soon.
The spokesman acknowledged the prime minister had been sick for some time, but didn't immediately seek treatment.
The news came almost a week after the government said Meles was "recovering well" from treatment for an unspecified illness.
The usually visible leader has not appeared in public for two months.
Meles, 57, came to power two decades ago and was considered a strong force in the frequently volatile Horn of Africa.
The secretive nation had released little information about his whereabouts, prompting rumors and opposition claims that he was dead or facing a life-threatening illness.
The government held a news conference last month and announced Meles received treatment for an unspecified illness.
He was "recovering well, resting and performing his duties as prime minister and head of state," government spokesman Bereket reiterated last week. He declined to give exact details on Meles' whereabouts or the nature of his illness.
Meles' absence had been a hot topic in the nation, with bloggers launching a counter of the number of days he's been missing. Citizens took to social media to discuss his whereabouts and exchange conspiracy theories.
His absence was more evident last month when Ethiopia hosted an African Union summit in its capital of Addis Ababa. Zenawi, a key player in talks on the tensions between Sudan and its rival neighbor South Sudan, did not attend.
Ethiopia, which is a key Western ally often lauded for effective use of aid money, is surrounded by unstable nations such as Somalia and Sudan. Meles has been credited with working toward peace and security in the region.
The Ethiopian army has sent peacekeepers to battle Islamic extremist group Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Meles, a former guerrilla leader, is part of a group that toppled dictator Haile Mengustu Mariam in 1991. The shrewd politician is credited with economic progress and maintaining peace in the nation surrounded by volatile countries.
However, human rights groups have accused his government of a heavy hand and a series of abuses, including limiting press freedoms and cracking down on opposition political parties.
Last year, Ethiopia found two Swedish journalists guilty of