A few days before EPRDF ousted Derg in 1991, Mengistu Haile Mariam escaped to Zimbabwe. Ever since he has lived in Harare with his family as a “guest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe”.

By Seleshi Tessema (Anadolu Agency)

ADDIS ABABA―The unfolding political crisis in Zimbabwe this week has intrigued Ethiopians for a specific reason all their own.

Indeed, Harare hosts and refuses to extradite the former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was sentenced to death in absentia, has triggered public attention and opened old wounds and divisions in Ethiopia.

Col. Mengistu, 80, was the leader of the self-styled Marxist–Leninist military junta, “Derg,” that in 1974 toppled the last Ethiopian monarch Emperor Haile Selassie and put an end to the Solomonic dynasty that ruled Ethiopia since the 13th century.

The junta transformed itself into the Ethiopian Workers Party which ruled the East African country under a brutal reign of terror that resulted in the deaths and disappearances of tens of thousands people.

After 17 years in power, Mengistu’s regime was toppled in 1991 by a guerrilla army of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

A few days before Addis Ababa was stormed, Mengistu escaped to Zimbabwe. Ever since he has lived in Harare with his family as a “guest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe”.

The Ethiopian Supreme Court had sentenced him to death in 2008.

The Ethiopian government has repeatedly requested his extradition, but authorities in Harare have publicly refused to do so.

The ‘butcher of Addis Ababa’

This past week, the Zimbabwean military seized power from Mugabe, detaining him and his family.

The crisis in Zimbabwe has generated intense interest in Ethiopia due to Mengistu, said Henock Alemu, a program director with a private station Ethio FM.

“All media houses have been providing in-depth coverage since day one and the issue has become the talk of the town,’’ he added.

On Thursday, Radio Fana, the biggest radio network, ran a report on how the military takeover might impact Mengistu’s future — they were not placing their bets on an extradition.

The issue is a most sensitive one for those who suffered under Mengistu.

Continue reading this story at Anadolu Agency
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