Meles funeral under way in Addis Ababa
Presidents of all Ethiopia’s neighbours – with the exception of arch-foe Eritrea – are attending, including Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, and Somalia’s Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Benin’s president and current Africa Union chairman Thomas Boni Yayi, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria are also present.
Senior officials from China, the European Union and the United States were also expected. Thousands of soldiers stood guard as the ceremony progressed, some of them crying. The funeral ceremony will later move to the capital’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, where Meles will be buried.
This is the first state funeral for the leader of a Horn of Africa country in 80 years. The coffin was taken in a procession from the National Palace through the Ethiopian capital to the great Meskel Square for the final salute, followed by thousands of black-clad mourners.
Meles became one of Africa’s central political figures after leading a coup against Ethiopia’s military rulers in 1991. He is widely credited for boosting development. But his leadership was tainted by human rights abuse and corruption allegations.
Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is currently acting as prime minister. It remains unclear when he will be sworn in, but Ethiopian officials say no elections are planned.