Violent and incompetent, the Marxist regime “Derg” – that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987 is nevertheless remembered fondly by some

AMBO, Ethiopia (The Economist)―In Ambo, a town in central Ethiopia, a teenage boy pulls a tatty photo from his wallet. “I love him,” he says of the soldier glaring menacingly at the camera. “And I love socialism,” he adds. In the picture is a young Mengistu Haile Mariam, the dictator whose Marxist regime, the Derg, oversaw the “Red Terror” of the 1970s and the famine-inducing collapse of Ethiopia’s economy in the 1980s. Mr Mengistu was toppled by rebels in 1991 before fleeing to Zimbabwe, where he still lives. He was later sentenced to death, in absentia, for genocide.

But the octogenarian war criminal seems to be growing in popularity back home, especially in towns and among those too young to remember the misery of his rule. When Meles Zenawi, then prime minister, died in 2012, a social-media campaign called for Mr Mengistu to return. In the protests that have swept through towns like Ambo since 2014, chants of “Come, come Mengistu!” have been heard among the demonstrators.

Asked by Afrobarometer, a pollster, how democratic their country is, Ethiopians give it 7.4 out of 10. They give the Derg regime a 1. Yet even some of those old enough to remember life under Marxism are giving in to nostalgia, admits a middle-aged professor at Addis Ababa University. The coalition that ousted the Derg, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), introduced a system of ethnically based federalism in 1995 that critics say favors the Tigrayan minority. After bouts of ethnic violence, most alarmingly this year, many now look back fondly on Mr Mengistu’s pan-Ethiopian nationalism.

Continue reading this story at The Economist
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