Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi Dead At 57

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, has died after 20 years as the head of the Ethiopian government. In the photo above, from 2008, he is seen with Dr. Eleni Zaude Gebremedhin, outgoing CEO of the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange [ECX], the governing body that controls coffee export from Ethiopia.  More on Zenwai’s passing from Coffee Poltics:

Mr. Meles earned praise abroad for improvements in the economy, education and health care. But human rights groups sharply criticized him for various abuses, including restrictions on independent media.

Under Mr. Meles, Ethiopia fought a border war with Eritrea and sent troops to Somalia to fight Islamist militants. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought from 1998 to 2000 in a conflict that killed more than 70,000 people. Tension between the two countries remained high.

Mr. Meles’ most serious political challenge came in the 2005 elections, when opposition parties said the government rigged to results to cheat them of victory. Nearly 200 people died in post-election violence and protests.

Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has been designated as acting prime minister. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, and there’s no country on earth where politics and coffee are so closely aligned. As such, the death of a major political figure in Ethiopia is news for coffee drinkers around the world, as we wait and watch to see if this brings change to Ethiopian public and political life.

For more on the ECX, we recommend this balanced primer from Stephen Leighton. Follow regular updates on coffee in Ethiopia via Wondwossen Mezlekia’s essential Poor Farmer blog.