Opinion: What is the fate of the Exiled Dictator in Harare [Mengistu Haile Mariam]?
Well, as the day progress and the coup d’état in Harare. That has toppled President Robert Mugabe in the last 48 hours, as the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) power struggle has led to the demise of the 37 years of Mugabe. Why it is important is that the former Ethiopian dictator who left for exile was there on the accord of Mugabe. His powers and his control is out. Therefore, it now matters to the current leadership in Addis Ababa and the new in Harare. What will happen with this old-man, whose saving grace was the opening arms of Mugabe. But now that has no currency in any trade.
“Almost five years since a civil war overthrew the Marxist military dictatorship of Lieut. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, the challenge for Ethiopia has been not only to create a new identity, but also to deal with its heritage” (…) “Colonel Mengistu’s rule tried to obliterate this heritage and create a Marxist state. In the process, tens of thousands of people were killed, including the Emperor, as many were tortured and more than a million peasants were relocated. In a war against guerrilla fighters, Colonel Mengistu’s military bombed entire regions, flattening towns and propagating a reign of terror” (Lorch, 1995)
“The Dergue had been executing suspected EPRP members since 1976, but after Mengistu seized full control in 1977, the “Red Terror” was officially unleashed. During this two-year campaign, which has been divided into “three waves,” tens of thousands of Ethiopians were arrested, tortured, and summarily executed. To assist in exterminating the Dergue’s political opponents and “enemies of the revolution,” Mengistu employed the secret police and issued arms to local government, or kebele, officials (Mayfield 1995)” (USBCIS, 1999).
So a man who fled Ethiopia in 1991 and got to exile, are no an open question, as he was the guest of Mugabe. Will the new administration want his presence or do they want him gone? What is their thoughts after toppling on dictator, do they want to have the second one lingering, even if he isn’t their own?
“An airport official said Colonel Mengistu was wearing green fatigues and looked “close to tears.” The Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, who invited Colonel Mengistu here as a way to resolve Ethiopia’s civil war, insisted that the arrival be kept as quiet as possible. Mr. Mugabe was at the airport just an hour earlier, but he left for London on a private visit, avoiding any public meeting with the Ethiopian. Mugabe Returns a Favor. The Zimbabwe Government has issued no statement on Colonel Mengistu, and given no confirmation or denial of his presence in the country. But Government officials have said that Colonel Mengistu is expected to settle here” (New York Times, 1991).
That means that the exiled dictator and the man behind the Red Terror of Ethiopia has been living in Harare since 1991, that means 26 years he has had in peaceful existence there. While this has happen in Ethiopian Supreme Court in January 2007, the exiled President was sentenced to death in his absence. That meaning, if he has to return to Ethiopia. It will he his direct demise and himself paying the price for his leadership in Ethiopia between 1976 and 1991. Clearly, the EPRDF the one party overthrowing the DERG want to retaliate, especially considering that he fled and has been sentenced since leaving.
So we can wonder what will be his fate, will the TPLF or the EPRDF ask for his Extradition from Zimbabwe? Or will they just let him be or will the new leadership ask him to leave and where should he go? Since he would in midst turmoil in Ethiopia and hard for someone sentenced to death in their homeland to become refugee on humanitarian grounds. Even if he wants to try to become political refugee, most likely very few countries wants his residence, except for Equatorial Guinea who recently accepted Yayha Jammeh from Gambia. Peace.
New York Times – ‘EX-ETHIOPIA CHIEF REACHES ZIMBABWE’ (23.05.1991) link: http://www.nytimes.com/1991/05/23/world/ex-ethiopia-chief-reaches-zimbabwe.html
Lorch, Donatella – ‘ Ethiopia Deals With Legacy of Kings and Colonels’ (31.12.1995) link: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/31/world/ethiopia-deals-with-legacy-of-kings-and-colonels.html
United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USBCIS) – ‘Ethiopia: Background Information on the Mengistu Regime during the Red Terror’ (28.12.1999) link: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a6b414.html