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Monday, December 11, 2006

Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam found guilty of genocide

“We’re more concerned with the new people in jail, the political prisoners, than with these old cases,” say addis residents , details below

Also in the news: [Zim opposition says Mengistu should go home], [“Our position regarding Comrade Mengistu will not change”: Zim information minister Paul Mangwana], [Interview with a mother whose son was killed in the June 2005 Massacre], [Freedom of speech suffers in tense Ethiopia: CS Monitor]

[Today's Picture] Former Ethiopian prime minister Fikre Selassie Wogderes, fifth from right, front row, former Ethiopian vice president Fissiha Desta, fourth from right, front row, and Legesse Asfaw third from right, front row, appear before the Ethiopian Federal High Court, Addis Ababa, Tuesday Dec. 12, 2006 (AP Photo/Les Neuhaus)

ADDIS ABABA (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. (More...)

Profile: Mengistu Haile Mariam

The evidence against Mengistu, who is nearly 70, included signed execution orders, videos of torture sessions and personal testimonies.


Mengistu's Marxist rule began in 1974, when he and a group of officials known as the Dergue, overthrew Ethiopia's emperor, Haile Selassie. The emperor had failed to come to grips with a poor harvest, and the situation escalated into a devastating famine.

Mengistu soon emerged as the leader, and in the confusion following the emperor's death the government became embroiled in bitter clashes with students and leftist rivals.

Mengistu responded by brutally suppressing the unrest. Declaring Ethiopia a Socialist People's Republic, he turned to the Soviet Union, which backed him in fighting an invasion from Somalia.

But a war for independence in Eritrea rumbled on, and rebellion erupted in the province of Tigray. Moscow re-armed the Ethiopian military, but it gradually crumbled until in 1991 the combined Eritrean and Tigrayan forces were on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Mengistu then fled to Zimbabwe, where his friend, President Robert Mugabe gave him sanctuary. Mr Mugabe has so far refused requests to extradite Mengistu to Ethiopia.

Mengistu himself refuses to recognise the legal basis of the trial, accusing those who overthrew him of being mercenaries and colonisers.

Zimbabwe opposition says Mengistu should go home

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe had no official comment on Tuesday after one of its most notorious foreign guests was found guilty of genocide, but the opposition said Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Mariam should be sent home to face justice.

Mengistu, who has lived in exile in Zimbabwe since he was ousted in 1991, was found guilty of genocide by an Ethiopian court following a 12-year trial in absentia on his record of war, famine and bloody political purges.

President Robert Mugabe's government, which regards the former Ethiopian strongman as a friend of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, reacted with silence to the verdict, but the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said Mengistu should now find Zimbabwe's welcome mat withdrawn.

"Mengistu is a very serious issue ... we feel that Zimbabwe should not be turned into a sanctuary and safe haven for tinpot dictators," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said. Mugabe's government routinely refuses to discuss its Ethiopian guest and has largely shielded him from the media.

Most average Zimbabweans appeared to have little idea that the former Ethiopian leader was living in their midst. "Who is he?" asked Marian Kumbula, a mother of four. When told about Mengistu she said; "If it's the government that invited him here I don't think there is anything bad about it."

"This is his home now because 15 years is long time staying in a foreign land," she said. Mengistu and his family stay in a government villa in Harare's plush Gunhill district, behind a high security wall guarded round the clock by a crack army and police unit.(More...)

Zimbabwe has ruled out handing over former Ethiopian dictator

Zimbabwe has ruled out handing over former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Miriam after he was convicted of genocide. The atrocities were carried out during his 1974-1991 Marxist regime.

"Comrade Mengistu asked for asylum and he was granted that asylum. That position will not change," Zimbabwe's acting information minister Paul Mangwana told AFP. Mangwana however refused to comment on the ruling by an Ethiopian court, only saying: "We'll not interfere with the judicial processes of other countries." (More...)

Interview with a mother whose son was killed in the June 2005 Massacre

An interview conducted by the International Ethiopian Women Organization's Radio Program with a Mother who lost her son in the June 2005 massacre. This courageous woman says she is determined to have the story of the victims of June 2005 told to the world.
Listen to the interview

Freedom of speech suffers in tense Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – For more than 40 years, Ababa Tesfaye has been Ethiopia's answer to Mister Rogers, entertaining children on state-run television with magic tricks, fairy tales, and gentle words of advice.

But on June 2006, the grandfatherly Mr. Tesfaye was fired, after a young child on his program uttered a derogatory word for one of Ethiopia's main ethnic groups.

"After serving 41 years, it's a heartbreaking thing," recalls the 84-year-old Tesfaye. "I have told tales during the imperial government, with their censorship, during the military government's censorship, and during the present government. I keep wondering whether there is anything more I should have done [to reprimand the child]."

That a gentle soul like Tesfaye would be fired from his job illustrates just how ugly Ethiopian politics has become since the May 2005 elections..(More..)

We’re more concerned with the new political prisoners, than with these old cases, say addis residents

New York Times

According to Reuters, Ethiopia’s High Court decision said that Mr. Mengistu and his top officers “have conspired to destroy a political group and kill people with impunity.” The statement added “they set up a hit squad to decimate, torture and destroy groups opposing the Mengistu regime.”

Mr. Mengistu is scheduled to be sentenced later this month in absentia and could face death by hanging. Despite the magnitude of his crimes, many people in Addis Ababa seemed unfazed by today’s guilty verdict.

“We’re more concerned with the new people in jail, the political prisoners, than with these old cases,” said Addis Adugna, an architect. (More...)

Due to the large size of our lead story, we will not be featuring ‘Top Stories - International’ segment today.