Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Former Ethiopian Dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam Convicted In Absentia Of Genocide In Ethiopian Court

Former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam was convicted in absentia of genocide in an Ethiopian court on Tuesday December 12th, 2006. According to the court decision, Mengistu and his top officers "conspired to destroy a political group and kill people with impunity." The statement further added that "they set up a hit squad to decimate, torture and destroy groups opposing the Mengistu regime." Mengistu is scheduled to be sentenced later this month and could face death by hanging. Original story from the International Herald Tribune.

Unlike the recent demise of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, whose death received worldwide coverage and who was mostly demonized by the mainstream media and by most bloggers, the conviction of Mengistu received little coverage and Mengistu never was criticized to the same degree as Pinochet.

Mengistu's life is amply documented by Wikipedia, from which I draw much of this account. He was a prominent member of a committee of low ranking officers and enlisted soldiers known as the Derg who in 1974 overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie, whose regime had lost public confidence following a BBC-produced documentary by Jonathan Dimbleby highlighting a devastating famine in Wollo province. The Emperor's advanced age, and failure of local officials to notify him of the situation, combined with demands of radical students for reform, and economic stress caused by the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, helped the Derg undermine the Imperial regime. The emperor died the following year, strangled on orders from Mengistu himself, though Mengistu has denied these reports. Although several groups were involved in the overthrow, the Derg (of which Mengistu was part) came out on top. Mengistu himself did not formally assumed power as head of state and Derg chairman in 1977, although he had wielded power behind the scenes after the initial coup. Under Mengistu, Ethiopia received aid from the Soviet Union, other members of the Warsaw Pact, and Cuba.

From 1977 through early 1978, a rebellion against the new communist government ensued and was suppressed, resulting in many casualties. In response to guerrilla attacks from the anti-Mengistu Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP), Mengistu declared that the EPRP had begun a campaign of "White Terror." Anti-Mengistu forces, however, accused Mengistu's Workers Party of waging a campaign of "Red Terror."
Mengistu's campaign against anti-government guerrillas was launched with a speech delivered in Revolution (formerly Maskal or "Holy Cross") Square in the heart of Addis Ababa, targeting all seven opposition groups.

Another factor to the Red Terror were the famines that were kept secret from the international community. Millions of people died, especially in Wollo and Tigrai area. In addition, there were frustrated peasants who revolted against the government along side the guerrilla fighters. In response, Mengistu designed the relocation project that caused one of the worst humanitarian crisis of the decade. From 1975-1978, Mengistu Haile Mariam was responsible for the numerically seventh worst genocide in world history. Around 1,500,000 Ethiopians were the victims of the Derg genocide.

In response to guerrilla attacks from the EPRP, Mengistu gave counter-insurgency forces the authority to arrest, detain, and execute insurgents. From 1977-78, counter-insurgency forces pursued countless suspected insurgents. Military gains made by the monarchist EDU in Begemder were rolled back when that party split just as it was on the verge of capturing the old capital of Gondar. The army of the Republic of Somalia stepped in to aid the WSLF in the Ogaden region, and was on the verge of capturing Harrar and Dire Dawa, when Somalia's erstwhile allies, the Soviets and the Cubans, launched an unprecedented arms and personnel airlift to come to Ethiopia's rescue. The Derg regime turned back the Somali invasion, and made deep strides against the Eritrean secessionists and the TPLF as well. By the end of the seventies, Mengistu presided over the second largest army in all of sub-Saharan Africa, along with a sizable air force and navy.

After out-maneuvering his rivals inside the Derg and his foes in the EPRP, Mengistu had a rift with the other major Marxist group that had originally supported him, the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement (MEISON). He feared that its members had more loyalty to their party and to Marxist ideology than to the ruling Derg government and himself. By 1978, he had effectively eliminated all potential opposition from the EPRP and MEISON through three phases of bloody purges; the first targeting the EPRP, the second targeting MEISON, and the third eliminating remnants of both groups. Meanwhile, he was still fighting against various opposition groups all around the nation. In an attempt to destroy the will of northern oppositions, one of the famous tragic attack was unleashed on the Hawzen town of Tigray where thousands of people were killed. His fighter planes dropped cluster bombs on the whole town on a broad daylight while most people & civilians were outside, especially in the market places.

In 1984, Mengistu denied that famine was ravaging the north of the country. United Nations aid workers said Mengistu flew in planes filled with "loads of whisky" to celebrate the anniversary of his revolution. Meanwhile in Ethiopia, around one million more people died of starvation. In reviewing other sources of information, I find that the editors of National Vanguard also remind us that many ordinary people were inadvertently suckered into financially supporting the Mengistu regime. Those of their readers old enough to remember the highly sanctimonious "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and "We Are the World" campaigns of 1984 and 1985 will recall Mengistu as the dictator who allowed much of the food purchased with the millions in privately-financed "aid" to rot. The rest was used to coerce rebels and feed his "army." The "We Are the World" phenomenon was classic white guilt mixed in with the egomania of "socially conscious" musicians like Michael Jackson. At the same time, despite having no political relationship, the United States provided several billion dollars to Mengistu's government to stop the famine or drought issue in Ethiopia. This money was mostly used to fund a program of genocide and for more purchase of weapons.

The killings continued throughout the decade and no one was spared from them as thousands of students, around 10,000 uneducated peasants and thousands of opposition group members (even inside Addis Ababa) were murdered until Mengistu's last days in Ethiopia.

Analysis: Let's compare "dictators". Officially, 3,197 Chileans died during Pinochet's 17-year regime, versus at least 2.5 million Ethiopians under Mengistu's rule. And the latter figure only accounts for the Red Terror (isn't it ironic that every Communist country has experinced a "Red Terror"?) and the famine of 1984-85; it does NOT include countless other undocumented victims. Pinochet's predecessor, Salvado Allende Gossens died at his own hand; Pinochet would have accepted his surrender and possibly allowed him to go into exile. Mengistu, by contrast, ordered Haile Selassie strangled; no surrender or exile was even considered (much like when the Bolsheviks murdered the entire Russian royal family). Pinochet ceded power voluntarily; Mengistu was removed by force. And while Ethiopia experienced endless economic privation under Mengistu's rule, Chile, under Pinochet's rule, experienced the strongest economic growth of any South American country under Pinochet's rule. Yet no Spanish judge ordered Mengistu arrested. And Mengistu does not live under house arrest; instead, he lives in a luxurious villa in exile in Zimbabwe, protected by the terrorist president Robert Mugabe himself.

Despite all these contrasts, the left and their brainwashed lemmings demonize Pinochet, while remaining virtually silent about Mengistu and other Marxist dictators. Human Rights Watch was one of the few internationally-established watchdog groups condemning Mengistu's regime, accusing it of unleashing "one of the most systematic uses of mass murder by a state ever witnessed in Africa."

Decide for yourself who was the REAL dictator.

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