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He hadn’t been seen publicly for two months. Twitter and the blogosphere were buzzing with questions – where was the prime minister of Ethiopia? Was he ill? Travelling? On Tuesday morning, confusion fell away. State television announced that Meles Zenawi, aged 57, had died of a sudden infection, after a prolonged stay in a “hospital overseas”. A guerrilla fighter-turned-tenacious leader, Meles held power for 21 years, becoming a political heavyweight who won billions of dollars of aid from western governments while attracting condemnation from human rights groups for his crackdowns on journalists and opposition activists. While some observers hope his death may help usher in a less autocratic government in the Horn of Africa’s most populous country, others foresee a destabilising tussle for succession.
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