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Africa’s Dictator-Diplomat

BRUSSELS – The recent death in Brussels of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi finally brings to light what lay behind his mysterious two-month disappearance from public life. Ethiopia’s government had strenuously denied rumors of serious ill health caused by liver cancer. Now that the worst has, indeed, proven true, Ethiopia and all of East Africa will need to learn to live without the stabilizing influence of its great dictator-diplomat.

Meles was certainly both. Ethiopia has undergone a remarkable transformation under his strongman rule since 1991, when his Tigrayan minority group from the country’s north came to power with the overthrow of the odious Communist Derg led by Mengistu Haile Mariam (still enjoying a comfortable retirement in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe).