We welcome you to share your stories

The purpose of this blog is to collect testimonials of all survivors of Mengestu Haile-Mariams Dictatorship. We trust that good will prevail only if the Human race will choose to learn from past wrongs. We will redeem our humanity if we recognize our responsibilities. We sincerely hope that the validity of this endeavor will be self-evident.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Zimbabwe: Calls for Mengistu Extradition

Prominent Zimbabweans feel Mugabe was wrong to reject Ethiopia’s request for its former leader to be sent home to face justice.

By Fred Bridgland in Johannesburg (AR No. 88, 22-Dec-06)

Opposition representatives, top human rights lawyers and church leaders in Zimbabwe have called for the extradition of the former the Ethiopian president Mariam Mengistu who was last week convicted in absentia for crimes of genocide by a court in Addis Ababa.

A day after the conviction on December 12, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe rejected an appeal by the government of Ethiopia to extradite Mengistu, found guilty of causing the deaths of between half a million and 1.5 million of his fellow countrymen, to face justice at home.

Justifying protecting a leader responsible for more deaths than any other African dictator, Mugabe said through his spokesman, "As a comrade of our struggle [against white rule in former Rhodesia], Comrade Mengistu and his government played a key and commendable role during our struggle for independence and no one can dispute that.”

Mengistu provided arms to Mugabe’s ZANU, Zimbabwe African National Union, guerrilla movement and trained Zimbabwe’s air force pilots after independence. But Mugabe has come under a barrage of criticism from human rights and opposition groups in Zimbabwe for protecting Mengistu. Various international organisations such as the London-based International Bar Association have called for the president himself to be tried by the new International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity.

"Verdicts such as this [in Addis Ababa] build up pressure and send the message that leaders who are bloodstained must not be allowed to retire in comfort," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa head of Human Rights Watch. He said Mengistu would find it impossible to travel to neighbouring countries, even for medical treatment, without facing the danger of arrest. "This man and his followers committed monstrous crimes against humanity, and international justice demands he be brought to face justice. The cycle of impunity must and will be stopped."

Leading Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Otto Saki, of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said his organisation demanded that Mengistu be conveyed to Ethiopia to accept responsibility for his crimes. “We expect the government to fulfil this commitment,” he said. “We expect government to draw a precedent from the Taylor case.”

It is difficult to exaggerate the scale of Mengistu’s crimes. At the start of the darkest days of his rule in 1976, Mengistu stood before a huge crowd in the central plaza of Addis Ababa and smashed a series of jars filled with pigs’ blood. They represented, he said, the blood of the “counter-revolutionaries” that would flow as his regime set out to eliminate rivals of the ruling junta.

“The revolution needs to be fed by the blood of traitors,” he said. Human rights groups reported that at the height of the terror campaign, organised by Soviet advisers and Mengistu’s East German-controlled Department of State Security, government hit squads were summarily executing 100 to 150 “anarchists, feudalists, exploiters of the people and counter-revolutionaries” each day on the streets of Addis Ababa, other centres and in the notorious state prison on the edge of the capital.

Kenya’s main daily newspaper, The Nation, commented, “Why does it not come as a surprise that President Mugabe is not willing to hand over Mengistu to the Ethiopian government? It is no wonder that he [Mengistu] long ago found a soul-mate in Mugabe and was given sanctuary; the two are birds of a feather when it comes to atrocities against their people.”

Among the voices raised against Mengistu’s presence in Zimbabwe is that of Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Mugabe’s most fearless and outspoken critic who repeatedly says the best service the Zimbabwean head of state can do for his countrymen is to die. “Mugabe is using the taxpayers’ money to keep a dictator who killed a million people,” said the archbishop. “You can see what kind of friends Mugabe keeps. You need one dictator to prop up another.”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sign a petition

A letter to leaders of the Free world. Please read and sign the petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/EthiopiansforJustice

Bringing An African Dictator To Justice


The arrest of warlord Charles Taylor after his indictment was unsealed in June 2003 by UN-backed Sierra Leone Special Court cast a bright hope to conflict ridden Africa with dictators towering and trampling on rights of innocent citizens. Africa has for a long time been dominated by leaders who have constantly and consistently been unleashing in deliberate and indiscriminate manner terror with impunity to civilians. To address this phenomenon, AU council of ministers endorsed a plan of action against impunity in 1996. Subsequently, African leaders made a commitment through a declaration in 2000 to condemn genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the continent and pledged to cooperate with relevant institutions in the continent and outside that are set up to prosecute perpetrators. However, the Charles Taylor case has exposed African leaders as lacking common approach in combating impunity and preserving emerging fragile peace and democracy in the continent. (Read more)http://www.somalilandtimes.net/sl/2005/219/04.shtml

Monday, January 15, 2007

Excerts from Library of Congress Country Studies

Human rights violations after 1974 increased dramatically, despite the regime's assurances to the UN that political prisoners received "fair trials" and obtained adequate food and clothing from their families. According to reports issued by Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the testimony of refugees, the human rights situation deteriorated still further from 1976 to 1978. Although human rights organizations often lacked verification of the exact extent of violations, many observers made repeated charges that Ethiopian troops had massacred civilians and committed atrocities in Eritrea and that the Ethiopian government had perpetrated human rights violations throughout the country, including arbitrary arrests, imprisonment without due process, torture, summary executions, and mass killings during the Red Terror.

In a report based on the observations of a 1976 fact- finding visit to Ethiopia, Amnesty International stated that, since 1974, "there has developed a consistent pattern of widespread gross human rights violations," and it singled out the association tribunals for the most egregious disregard of basic human values. Addis Ababa responded to this charge by labeling the evidence presented by Amnesty International as "imperialist propaganda [against] authentic socialist revolution" and claimed that actions taken against political dissidents during the Red Terror were "justified" for the elimination of "counterrevolutionaries." Official sources subsequently added that the human rights enjoyed by the "broad masses" were greater than they had been before the revolution and dismissed the "individual human rights" concept that was the premise of Western criticism of the regime as being irrelevant to a revolutionary government building a Marxist society.

Amnesty International, for example, concluded that "this campaign resulted in several thousand to perhaps tens of thousands of men, women, and children, killed, tortured, and imprisoned." Other sources estimated that, during 1977-78, about 30,000 people had perished as a result of the Red Terror and harsh conditions in prisons, kebele jails, and concentration camps. Ethiopian sources opposed to the Marxist regime claimed that the security forces had killed 2,000 teachers and students in a pre-May Day 1978 massacre in Addis Ababa.

During the Red Terror in Addis Ababa, security forces frequently mutilated the bodies of political dissidents, dumping them along roads or stacking them on street corners. They also forced some victims to dig their own graves before being executed. The government required families to pay a "bullet fee" of about 125 birr to retrieve bodies of relatives, when they could be found and identified. Sweden's Save the Children Fund lodged a protest in early 1978 alleging the execution of about 1,000 children, many below the age of thirteen, whom the government had labeled "liaison agents of the counterrevolutionaries." Based on its assessment of the human rights situation in Ethiopia in 1979, the United States Department of State reported to congressional committees in February 1980 that "serious violations of individual rights and civil and political liberties take place in Ethiopia amidst a restructed economic and social system that is aimed at improving the basic living conditions of the great majority of the country's poor."

During the 1984-85 famine in northern Ethiopia, the Mengistu regime devised a scheme to resettle 1.5 million people onto so-called virgin lands in southern Ethiopia. The government forcibly moved people who resisted the plan, and many of those who were resettled fled to Sudan and took refuge in camps or tried to walk back to their northern homelands. According to a report issued by an international medical group, 100,000 people died as a result of Mengistu's resettlement policy; Cultural Survival, another humanitarian organization, estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 died. To make matters worse, Mengistu refused to allow food to be distributed in areas where inhabitants were sympathetic to the EPLF, TPLF, or other antigovernment groups, a strategy that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands.

When a new famine emerged in late 1989, threatening the lives of 2 million to 5 million people, Mengistu again used food as a weapon by banning the movement of relief supplies along the main road north from Addis Ababa to Tigray and also along the road from Mitsiwa into Eritrea and south into Tigray. As a result, food relief vehicles had to travel overland from Port Sudan, the major Red Sea port of Sudan, through guerrilla territory into northern Ethiopia. After an international outcry against his policy, Mengistu reversed his decision, but international relief agencies were unable to move significant amounts of food aid into Eritrea and Tigray via Ethiopian ports.

Due process of law and legal guarantees prohibiting abuse of power basically did not exist in revolutionary Ethiopia. After revision of the penal code and the criminal procedures code in 1976, judicial warrants were no longer required for house searches or for the arbitrary off-the-street arrests that became the norm in the late 1970s. Specific charges were not necessarily brought against detainees after politically motivated arrests, and those held had no right to counsel. The bulk of non-criminal arrests involved suspects seized at the discretion of authorities on charges of nonparticipation in mandatory political activities, curfew violations, and participation in unauthorized meetings. In most cases, those arrested or summoned to association tribunals for questioning would be released after a scare or a roughing up, but many would disappear without a trace. Whole families--including young children-- would be taken into custody and held for indefinite periods in lieu of a missing relative who was a suspect.

According to a variety of estimates, there were 6,000 to 10,000 political prisoners, including surviving officials of the former imperial regime, in Ethiopian prisons in 1976. During the Red Terror, as many as 100,000 persons may have passed through Ethiopian jails. Appeals by Amnesty International in support of approximately 3,000 known political detainees in 1978 had no effect, and most of these individuals were believed to have been killed while in custody. Other sources put the number of political prisoners at 8,000, of whom half eventually were released.
Categories of political prisoners still held in 1991 included former government officials; prominent civil servants and businessmen; armed forces officers, including those implicated in the May 1989 coup attempt against Mengistu; students and teachers; members of ethnic, regional, and separatist groups; leaders of professional and women's groups and trade unionists who resisted government takeover of their organizations; churchmen; suspected members of the EPLF, TPLF, or other guerrilla movements; and others arrested on various pretexts on orders from the government or from kebeles or peasant associations

Harold G. Marcus's Ethiopia, Great Britain, and the United States, 1941-1974 provides an excellent analysis of the historical evolution of the Ethiopian armed forces. Other useful historical sources include Donald N. Levine's "The Military in Ethiopian Politics"; Richard A. Caulk's "The Army and Society in Ethiopia"; and Yohannis Abate's "Civil- Military Relations in Ethiopia." Marina and David Ottaway's Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution also is essential for an understanding of the military's role in contemporary Ethiopia.

Material on human rights practices in Ethiopia can be found in the annual Amnesty International Report and in other Amnesty International publications, such as Ethiopia: Human Rights Violations, Ethiopia: Political Imprisonment and Torture, and Ethiopia: Political Imprisonment. Although dated (1979), Bekele Mesfin's "Prison Conditions in Ethiopia" remains a valuable first-hand account of the life of a political prisoner in Mengistu's Ethiopia. For an analysis of the human costs of Mengistu's resettlement policy, Jason W. Clay and Bonnie K. Holcomb's Politics and the Ethiopian Famine, 1984-1985 is fundamental.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A film about the 'Red Terror' by an Ethiopian Director

Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 09:57 GMT 10:57

UKFilm pushes Ethiopia to confront pastStill from the movieWaiting to be executed: A dramatic thriller set during Mengistu's ruleBy Nita Bhalla in Addis AbabaThe Ethiopian film The Father has been winning awards across Africa for portraying the horrors of the "Red Terror" campaign unleashed by deposed dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam more than 20 years ago.

Rwandans are talking about genocide, South Africans about apartheid and so, Ethiopia has to talk about the Red TerrorDirector Ermias WoldeamlackAnd the 28-minute film, which is now on a satellite television channel in Ethiopia, has finally got people talking about the dark days in the late 1970s when tens of thousands of people were killed, tortured or disappeared.

First time director Ermias Woldeamlack, who is 37 years old, is firm in his belief that the story has to be told.There is little literature, film, theatre or music re-telling the "Red Terror" period, he says.And the absence of such materials indicates that Ethiopians are hiding from the goings on of that period rather than come to terms with them, Ermias believes."We didn't deal with them as it is not in our culture to have done so. But the only way we could move on, is to address them head on," he said.Its good to talkThe young director explains: "The Rwandans are talking about the genocide, the South Africans about the apartheid era and so, Ethiopia has to talk about the 'Red Terror'. The Father is the first step."



ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters)
Thursday Jan 11, 2007

-- An Ethiopian court spared former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam from the death penalty on Thursday, sentencing him to life in prison for genocide during his brutal 17-year reign.


Ethiopia's Mengistu found guilty of genocide
Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:43 PM GMT145

By Tsegaye Tadesse

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) - Ethiopia's former ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam was found guilty in absentia of genocide on Tuesday at the end of a 12-year trial over his bloody rule.

Mengistu, now nearing 70, is unlikely to serve any prison time because he is exiled in Zimbabwe and the government there said it would not extradite him.

The genocide verdict, which carries a death sentence, was passed by two votes to one on the three-judge panel.

Mengistu was ousted by guerrillas led by now Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and in 1991 fled to Zimbabwe, where he leads a luxurious though reclusive life.

The 12-year-trial focused on the so-called "red terror campaign," carried out by his military regime, the Dergue. Amnesty International estimates 500,000 people were killed from 1977 to 1991.


Write down the names of your loved ones and tell us who they were to you. Ask your parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, neighbors, grand-parents; did Mengestu Haile-Mariam destroy some one you loved? Let us build our list, our monument and please let us tell the people of Zimbabwe about our pain, let us tell the world that we have not forgotten and we will not rest until he is brought to justice.

Here in the West, the semantic debate rages on . . . Did Mengestu Haile-Mariam committ Genocide? We may have become derailed from the heart of the matter. The victims, (if they could speak) and we the survivors know the tyrannical rule 1974 - 1991 was atrocious, the horific years where havoc reigned and millions perished. Those responsible have indeed committed crimes against humanity. A crime of such proportion must not go unheeded. Those of us who have experienced the wrath must acknowledge our fate. . . The world must be made aware of our outrage, the scope of our loss.

We must appeal to every Zimbabwean young, old and in between. We are not politicians, officials or special interest groups. We are just citizens of Ethiopia, citizens of the world. After waiting years of deliberation, the verdict is in, and the time has come to stand up and get counted . . .

How many of us lost a mother, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a son? Has the experience of the Red Terror in Ethiopia become so distant and vague? We have lived so long without them, have we forgotten? Did they not deserve to live, start anew like us in our journery in the Diaspora. Have we become so hard in our struggle to survive, to make it . . .? If we stopped for a moment and remember do we not weep, does not our heart want to burst with agony and despair for our loss. Losses that were so needless, reckless and without just cause.

Emama, I see you often in my minds eye your silver hair. . . I have become old, older than you. If only I could show you my children. What I would give to see you doting on your grandchildren whom you would never know.

Wondeme, your step was broken, you never got the chance to say farewell, snuffed out before your seventeenth birthday. What amazing feat lay ahead for you, I thought, no, I was certain you were the one to show us the way, my pillar, my honor. They prayed on you, shattered you, like a creature of no consequence.

Ehete, that fateful day you went to out to the corner, the bullet found you in its aimless glare. What of all those sleepless nights studying, your yearning to become someone, it was all for nothing? How could it be, what nonsense?

Gashaye, my confidant, my mentor, I will never tell you how wise you were, I would only know it years later. You will never see and smile with pride that my son is just like you, so wise, sensitive and gallant. One look at him, and you would have known that I was listening. I took to heart all your advice. Here, he is my witness. Like you he knows so much, how could he know, but thank God for love and hope . . .

Leje, oh my son, my mortal wound, you took with you the meaning of laughter, and joy, I will never know these things ever again. I will never find my bearing, my reason to be.

Have we forgotten? Tell me why do we know about the Holocaust? Is it not because the survivors would never let us forget? We know and have the experience of those victims because their loved ones told us and kept telling us and it became a lesson for humanity, one that will never be forgotten. Let us learn this great lesson, and let us speak for them (our victims), let us tell the world that the madness, the slaughter of the Mengestu Haile-Mariam was horrific. We have been crippled, fractured body and soul for life, because our loved ones never got justice. Let us revive them, let us remember their names, their faces and the terrible injustice done to these children of Ethiopia.