Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for more than 20 years, has died while undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness, according to Ethiopian state television.
It announced on Tuesday that the 57-year-old prime minister died from a sudden infection while recovering from the illness at a hospital abroad.
In a statement read on state TV, Simon Bereket, information minister, said : “It’s a sad day for Ethiopia, the man who led our country for the past 21 years and brought economic and democratic changes, has died. We have lost our respected leader.
“Meles has been receiving treatment abroad. He was getting better and we were expecting him to return to Addis Ababa. But he developed a sudden infection and died around 11:40pm last night.
“His body will be returned to Ethiopia soon. We have set up a committee to organise his funeral. More information will be released about that soon.”
State media said Hailemariam Desalegn, deputy prime minister, would be the acting prime minister.
Bereket said: “As per Ethiopian law, Hailemariam Desalegn has now taken over the leadership. He will also be in charge of the Ethiopian military and all other government institutions.
“I would like to stress, 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.”
Earlier Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from Johannesburg in South Africa, said: “His death did not come as a surprise because Zenawi missed a couple of important public events.
Rumours about his public health started to rise during the African Union summit where he failed to appear.
“The question now is where does this leave the country. There are already rumours of power struggle in his absence…
Read more: Al Jazeera