Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ethiopian Civil War- Mengitsu

Ethiopian Military

The Ethiopian Civil War was a conflict that spread from 1974 into the mid 1990s and brought severe violence to the region. Originally a revolution in the 1970s, the war became a guerilla conflict between many political factions all trying to control Addis Abba, the capital of Ethiopia. In the early 1990s, the EPRDF, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Frontled a movement to overthrow the established Mengitsu regime, which spread organized warfare to the streets of Addis Abba. The Mengitsu's political policies are similar to many other militant African governments using far left communism as an excuse for power.

Castro and Mengitsu

Mengitsu Mariam was a high ranking officer in the Ethiopian communist junta that ruled between 1974 and 1991. During the revolution, Mengitsu moved his way up the chain of command from petty officer to colonel with street smarts and excellent logistical planning skills. After the revolution in 1974, Mariam controlled the military of the Communist regime and led several small scale genocides and ethnic and political cleansings against various tribes in Ethiopia. The man fled Ethiopia when the EPRDF descended on Addis Abba in 1991 and has taken asylum in Zimbabwe, supported by the government and safe of extradition back to his homeland for genocide. In this post, the Mengitsu ethnic and political policies will be debated circa 1991.

The Mengitsu government came to power when the idea of equality and prosperity were very popular in a time of famine and drought. They overthrew the existing emperor and established a militaristic government with the officers leading the revolution as the rulers.The Marxist leaders used ethnic cleansing and political imprisonment to destroy revolutionary groups, composed of students and members of o
ther juntas during 1977-1978, called the Red Terror. Thousands of men, women, and children were ruthlessly murdered because of political alliances and cultural backgrounds, leaving Addis Abba full of dead bodies. Mengitsu led this ruthless revolution by identifying "enemies of the revolution", like many Marxist states, and quickly eliminating them, leaving thousands, innocent or not, dead in the streets, to be eaten by dogs. This genocide, ultimately, would be the largest case that happened in Ethiopia's history, and the horrors of the Red Terror would fill many of the 8,000 pages of charges against Mengitsu for genocide. between 1994-2006, tried and convicted in absentia. It's very important to note that genocide in Ethiopia is defined as an attempt to wipe out either a political or ethnic group.
Ethiopian Citizen Patrols

Another ethnic conflict in Ethiopia near the end of the Cold War was the persecution of the Oromos. The Oromos, a very large ethnic group in Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, and other countries, was persecuted by Mengitsu starting in the late 1970s until his abdication. The Oromos controlled the Ethiopian government for centuries, but in the 1970s the Derg and the Amharas (an Ethiopian ethnic group) took control of the government, exiling the Oromos and leading a persecution campaign. The Derg removed many of Oromo's rights(not allowed to own land, important since the Oromos were an agrarian culture) and were often imprisoned or exiled from Ethiopia. Oromos could not make a living with the new rules, and by the late 1980s, many Oromos left the war torn country and moved to Australia, Canada, and the United States. A few Oromos have returned, but many have immigrated to the West and have a new life away from homeland violence.

In 1987, the communist Derg junta was dissolved and was replaced with the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia as an attempt to show the world there is a strong, stable democratic nation in Ethiopia. On the contrary, Mengitsu was elected as president despite there was no general elections in the crumbling nation. Mengitsu operated many political groups and parties to try to grow and expand Marxist communism and preserve the PDRE (People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia) for further generations. The PDRE did reform education and received excellent educational and medical advisors from Cuba and Soviet Russia and did attempt to better Ethiopian society. The PDRE still received aid from the UN which supported education in five major native languages (including Oromo). In addition, the constant presence of military police in the streets of Addis Abba greatly reduced the crime rate during the 1980s when the government was still stable. Unfortunately, the PDRE was an establishment by Mengitsu that couldn't do a lot of good because of a lack of resources and native hatred of the Mengitsu regime.
The Workers' Party of Ethiopia was another of Mengitsu's platforms from 1984-1990, a Marxist establishment started by Mengitsu and the Soviet Union to spread communism to Africa. The government tried to stop counterrevolutionaries from taking control in the mid and late 1980s, but slowly lost a long war against the EPRDF which ravaged the region around Addis Abba and beyond. Citizens who interfered with Mengitsu's defense were often imprisoned and those captured during battle by Ethiopia's Workers Party could face torture or death, although little is known about Mengitsu's treatment of prisoners. All that is known is Mengitsu attempted to hold on to power with vigor and violence. After the 1989 Battle of Afabet, in which Eritrean patriots inflicted 15,000 casualties on a join Soviet/Ethiopian force, effectively destroying Mengitsu's military force. From there, Mengitsu's army lost several other large battles against the EPRDF and the Eritrean patriots, and the EPRDF quickly took control of Addis Abba in under two years.

Today, Ethiopia still faces violence and political uncertainty. In 1993, the UN entered Eritrea and allowed the citizens of the region to vote on independence. The vote passed, and the state of Eritrea was formally established. In 1998, relations broke between Eritrea and Ethiopia and a small scale war broke out, leaving Ethiopia's economy in shambles. In 2005, a general election was held, despite alleged fraud and corruption, allowing the EPRDF to keep control of the government. The EPRDF still rules Ethiopia, however the country has faced political unrest and a large opposition party was created in 2009 in an attempt to oust the EPRDF, but did not win the 2010 election.

In conclusion, the Derg and Mengitsu regime came to power in a time of starvation and despair yet left the country in a worse state then before. Despite a few positive changes to society, including lowering the crime rate and increasing literary rates, yet the positives of the regime are greatly outweighed by the negatives. The widespread reign of terror and genocide nearly destroyed an entire generation of Ethiopians, and a few Ethiopian patriots have tried to murder Mengitsu in Zimbabwe to exact revenge. The ethnic conflicts of Ethiopia during and after the Cold War mark a disturbing time in which left wing communist and militaristic societies merged to create a violent blood bath in a third world nation.

"The museum started the memorial celebration by dedicating the first day, Tuesday, for children. Children were given a tour in the museum with an explanation of the Red Terror and what happend at the time. The second day was titled “No Women No Cry”. Women from different walks of life shared their experiences and survival stories during and after the red terror.

Thursday was a symposium titled “Then and now: similarities and differences in grassroots revolution”. Different speakers who had been through revolutions in the past shared their experiences, and the stories of Red Terror were told by those who had experienced it first hand.

What went wrong at the time and what was the lesson from that experience were the issues the symposium tried to address. On Friday and Saturday the Museum had a musical tribute to the martyrs, honoring family and friends. “Tezta” an all day contemporary fine art exhibition and films that memorize Red Terror were also parts of the five-day event.

The Museum was established in March 2010 by the ‘Red Terror Martyrs’ Families and Friends Association. It permanently exhibits pictures, materials, documents and the remains of the victims that tell a story that is probably still in the memory of the present generation. The display begins from the time when students revolt against the Hailesellasie rule and shows how this revolution was stolen from the students by the military.

Red Terror victims ethiopiaPictures at the musim demonstrate the 17 years of brutal rule of the Derg and its leader Mengistu Hailemeriam. From the time the Emperor was detained by the military administration up to the time the regime ordered the killing of the 60 high officials and families of the Emperor is displayed and supported by photos and documents signed by Mengistu Hailemariam himself and his closest officials.

Some of the pictures of the victims of the red terror and the remaining of their bodies are on display permanently at the museum.

Red Terror (Key Shiber) (1978-79) is remembered as a brutal period in Ethiopian history with torture and mass murder of Ethiopians by the then military regime Derg led by Mengistu Hailemariam.

Though the terror still has its controversies and disagreements when it comes to the question of responsibility, it is undeniable that thousands of men, women, and youth were murdered, tortured and multilated in the most inhuman way under the guise of building a better Ethiopia.

According to the report by Amnesty International, around half a million people, most of them young students, were killed at the time.

Mengistu Hailemariam, who lives in Zimbabwe as a fugitive, repeatedly denied any responsibility for the terror. He blames the opponents of his regime who started the killing of Derg officials by calling their action “White Terror”. The response from the military regime for the ‘White Terror’ was handing out guns to ordinary people who were considered to be “Abyot Tibeka” or ‘Guards of the Revolution’."


Mengitsu was a fiery leader that could convince others to follow him with fear and terror, and Mengitsu Mariam did run a successful terror campaign, if that's what he planned/wanted. People feared Mengitsu like German citizens feared Hitler and ultimately followed his directions to save themselves, even if they disagreed with Mengitsu's principles and ideas. Ultimately, every dictator similar to Nazi Germany or Ethiopia collapses, however the dictator used others to do the killings, staining their hands even if they were forced to commit the murder. In the case of Mengitsu's hitmen, they were ordered to kill 60 of the former emperor's friends and family, which is very difficult because the former emperor was very revered by the citizens of Ethiopia.

This article described how there were killings back and forth in the last paragraph and that rebels and the EPRDF responded to political killings by targeting Derg officials which increased violence against anyone connected to the EPRDF. This vicious cycle became worse and worse and is a large reason why Mengitsu kept ordering more killings to create an eye for an eye situation to persuade patriots to stop attacking the government. The whole idea of the Red Terror was instilling the belief into counterrevolutionary patriots that the Derg had more people and more weapons and that you couldn't fight them without being found and killed. After reading many of these articles, I'm happy there are a lot of museums and memorials in Addis Abba about the Red Terror because it's a terrible time in Ethiopia that cannot be forgotten by the Ethiopians or the world.

Reuter's, The Trial Of The Derg, 2007

This video is a Reuter's report focused on the conviction of Mengitsu Mariam, the Marxist leader of Ethiopia. This video shows the point of view of a man whose father was killed and his entire family imprisoned during the Derg's rule. The man wanted a death sentence for Mengitsu, despite being convicted in absentia, yet the court ruled that a death sentence would be inhumane to an old and sick man, which is very ironic. Mengitsu didn't give a lot of people a humane chance, yet the court has allowed Mengitsu to live, if he was in Ethiopia. In my opinion, Mengitsu should have received the death penalty, regardless of age of health.

The second part of the video described the Red Terror and how Mengitsu led a campaign against all political opponents between 1977-1978, killing as much as 500,000 Ethiopians. Reuter's showed a clip of Mengitsu's fiery speech calling for Mengitsu's followers to protect the Derg from evil counterrevolutionaries and smashing six bottles of blood to demonstrate the need for action. The third part of the video shows an Ethiopian movie made in 2001 based off the horrors of the Red Terror. The director basically said in his interview he didn't want the horrors of the Red Terror to be forgotten, even though they were terrible. The movie seems to climax when a Derg officer tells the protagonist to shoot himself or shoot his best friend, or both will be shot. These types of mental torture and vile psychology are very, very difficult for a person when they love the other person but don't want to die themselves.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Irish Times, May 5th 2011
"Ethiopia still haunted by Derg genocidal regime"

"ADDIS ABABA LETTER: The brutality of the ‘Butcher of Addis’ is graphically represented in Red Terror museum, writes DEIRDRE McQUILLAN

THE DISPLAY case contains pliers, a thick nylon plait, a long twisted whip and a pair of metal shackles. A note explains these were some of the instruments of torture along with the notorious wofelala contraption, used on victims during the reign of terror by the Stalinist Derg military dictatorship in Ethiopia.

Led by an army lieutenant colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the Derg was a committee of nearly 120 military officers who came to power in Ethiopia after ousting Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and ruled the country until 1991. From an ancient aristocratic dynasty dating back to the 13th century, Selassie had reigned almost unchallenged since 1916.

These tools with their gruesome history are some of the objects on display in the new Red Terror martyrs’ memorial museum in Addis Ababa, which opened last year and attracts some 200-300 visitors daily. On the day of our visit, we were joined by a group of local school kids on a tour with their teacher.

The rope known as the Mengistu “necktie” was used for slow strangulation or to force confessions; other Derg officers were fond of the bastinado , used to brace the feet before smashing them into stumps. Thousands of Ethiopians were permanently crippled in this manner.

We are reminded that half a million people, old and young alike, Christian and Muslim, were slaughtered by the Derg.

The museum is a modern angular grey building beside the vast Meskel Square in the centre of the city. This was where the dictator Mengistu, known as the “Butcher of Addis”, famously made a dramatic speech on April 17th, 1977. In front of a crowd of supporters, he dramatically flung six bottles of what appeared to be blood to the ground, symbolising the blood he was willing to spill in order to “defend the revolution”.

With the aid of East German Stasi agents, Mengistu’s secret police spread throughout the country jailing and killing thousands arbitrarily identified as enemies of the state. Of particular interest, according to a book accompanying the exhibition, were students and professors, many shot in mass executions. It was not uncommon for families to be forced to pay for the bullets.

The many black-and-white pictures tell their own story; the emperor being hustled unceremoniously into the back of a blue VW Beetle and driven away to a military prison; tanks parading through Addis demonstrating the power of the Derg; images of door-to-door searches and executed bodies deliberately left to rot in the streets. Particularly harrowing are pictures of children awaiting execution. Our friend Mesfil, visibly upset, recalled those times with a shudder. “You couldn’t sleep at night because we were always waiting for somebody to come,” he whispered.

Mugshots of a wanted list of 755 people identified by the Derg as enemies of the state line the walls, and in a darkened room, stacked in glass cases, are the skulls and bones of exhumed remains beside a mound of earth, a reconstruction of the mass burial grounds outside the city.

Six coffins holding personal belonging, sandals, ropes and bloodstained clothing are further poignant reminders of this genocidal period of Ethiopian history.

Curiously, one of the Derg’s worst single acts of brutality is not commemorated in the museum. On June 22nd, 1988, in the highland town of Hawzien in the middle of a market day packed with villagers and animals, four MiG-21s appeared in the sky and for six hours bombed the town where it was believed rebels were hiding.

An estimated 1,600 people were killed, others mutilated, and in Chains of Heaven , Philip Marsden’s fine account of walking through northern Ethiopia, he reports survivors’ memories of the day, the market thick with dead people and donkeys. Rebel support swelled after the attack.

Other photographs chronicle the victorious march of the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party – a coalition of rebel forces) in 1991 towards the capital, which overthrew the Derg, and the later trial of Derg members with pictures of victims’ families in the witness stand. Today Mengistu stands charged with crimes against humanity, but lives in Zimbabwe where he got asylum and where, despite efforts to have him extradited and jailed, he remains to this day.

This is Mesfil’s first visit to the museum. His reaction is that he prefers to forget rather than be reminded of those brutal times. A plaque at the entrance announces that the museum was opened by a mother whose four children were killed in one day. “As if I bore them all in one night, they slew them in a single night,” it reads.

Outside the museum, it comes as a relief to be back in the warm air, for once enjoying the cacophonous din of gridlocked Ladas and blue and white taxis in their usual chaotic state and the sheer energy of human life on the streets of this vivid, lively capital."

This piece describes the terrors of the Red Terror, a genocide against pretty much anyone except his own party, a vile attempt to prove that he was the dictator of Ethiopia and everyone must obey his rule. This article places a number on how many Ethiopians were killed by the Derg, 500,000, which seems very accurate given the absolute destruction of Ethiopia by the civil war. This article also describes that Mengitsu jailed and killed citizens for their political and not their ethnic backgrounds. Apparently, the Derg used brutal methods of torture eluded to in my main article to gain confessions to nonexistent crimes and murders. This article truly described the horrors in Ethiopia between 1973-1991 in which every Communist state gave aid to the Derg regime, yet neither the U.S. or U.N. gave any help to the rebels. With the exception of UN education aid, given to an extension of the Derg regime, the U.N. ignored this conflict completely. I think the most chilling literary image from this article is the mass graves outside Addis Abba of all those who attempted to rise up against established rule and now sit in a grave long after the fall of the Derg. Political enemies were not jailed and later freed- they were murdered by a secret police, possibly by a foreign Communist force, to sit in a mass grave while their family, if even alive, wonders what ever happened to them. The museum in Addis Abba, described in the piece, seems to be a chilling reminder of African genocide thanks to a disturbed man and a disturbed political regime, supported by Marxist ideas. In conclusion, this piece gives an average citizen a descriptive yet chilling account of the horrors in Ethiopia.