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Ethiopia holds state funeral for late leader Meles Zenawi

Ethiopia has held a state funeral for its late prime minister, Meles Zenawi. Huge crowds followed his coffin through the streets of the capital.

The procession bearing Meles' coffin, draped in the Ethiopian flag, was accompanied by giant crowds as it made its way through Addis Ababa from the National Palace to Meskel Square.

Watch video 01:37

Ethiopia mourns late prime minister Meles Zenawi

More than 20 African heads of state and government - including the presidents of Benin, Djibouti, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan and Sudan - were present at the funeral.

Other international dignitaries in attendance included the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

In a speech, South African President Jacob Zuma said that Africa had "lost one of the greatest sons of the continent." Paul Kagame of Rwanda said Meles had "led a humble and simple life, but a very meaningful one," adding that Meles' ideas would live on in younger generations.

Erstwhile rebel

Meles was buried in the capital's Holy Trinity Cathedral, where several members of Ethiopia's imperial family are also interred, including the country's last emperor, Haile Selassie.

Meles died on August 20 in a Brussels hospital aged 57 after a protracted illness. He had not been seen in public for two months.

Late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

Meles led Ethiopia for more than two decades

A former rebel, he took power in 1991 after toppling dictator Mengistu Hailemariam. He was credited for bringing about widespread economic growth, but also criticized by rights groups for allegedly cracking down on opponents and journalists.

It is the first state funeral for a leader in Ethiopia since Empress Zawditu was honored with one in 1930.

Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is now to lead the government until national elections in 2015. No date has been fixed for his swearing-in.

tj/jr (dpa, AFP)

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