Monday, September 12, 2016
The Horror After Haile Selassie
This military clique, known as the Derg, took absolute control of the country and was, of course, backed the whole time by the Soviet Union and their masters in Moscow. The emperor had certainly made mistakes which hurt his cause, however, he certainly cannot be held responsible for the treason of others and the issues they seized on in order to take power were almost invariably due to things far beyond the ability of the emperor to control (unless one assumes the King of kings should be able to control the weather or global oil prices). The mistakes he made shrink in insignificance compared to the mistake of his overthrow and the dismantling of the monarchy which was the only government Ethiopia had ever known in its entire, ancient history. Why was this so? A simple look at the subsequent history of the country proves it beyond all doubt. How did Ethiopia fare without a monarch? Well, there was one coup after another in this communist dictatorship that couldn’t even manage to agree on a single dictator. There were numerous rebellions, all of them bloodily suppressed, there was drought, famine, massive starvation and soon Ethiopians were fleeing their homeland in record numbers. Part of the country was even conquered by the Somalis and the Somali incursion was only beaten back with massive assistance from the rest of the communist bloc. I do not wish to sound too offensive here but, when you need the help of the Soviet Union, East Germany, North Korea and Cuba to defeat a country like Somalia -you are not doing very well.
Now, most histories will tell you that the nightmare of Mengistu and his communist tyranny ended in 1991. Do not be fooled. The nightmare has not ended and will not until traditional government, the monarchy, is restored to Ethiopia. As the Soviet Union began to fold, the primary source of aid to Mengistu dried up and his regime was toppled. He fled to Zimbabwe and the open arms of his friend and fellow tyrant Robert Mugabe where he remains to this day, despite being indicted by an Ethiopian court for genocide. However, the party that replaced Mengistu was the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, a democratic socialist party. In other words, communism for slow learners. Unfortunately, this is not unique to Ethiopia as we have seen the same all over the world. When communist regimes fall, the party renames itself the social democrats or democratic socialists and continues on just as they did before. They took power and held on to it, giving the world some show-elections just to make everyone happy while continuing on the tradition of corruption, wars and poverty that characterized the preceding regime. It is still a country of starvation and repression.
What happened in Ethiopia, under communism, is not much remembered today but everyone would do well to learn from it. The misery, the mass murder, the oppression was on a scale such as was seen in Cambodia under Pol Pot with a death toll in the millions. In the "Qey Shibir" or 'Red Terror' alone the murdered numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The Derg tried to wash its hands of the matter but the bands of radicals who carried out the killings had been armed by them and organized by them as an instrument of punishment for "reactionaries". They only came to care about the horror when some of these radical groups began to target Derg officials and sympathizers as well in a way not too dissimilar from that of Mao's Red Guards in China. In the capital city alone, aside from the adults, well over a thousand young children were murdered and left in the streets. All of this would have been enough to retard the progress of even the most advanced countries and it certainly has in Ethiopia but recovery has been even more slow and painstaking since the government still, to a large extent, clings to the leftist policies of the communist era. This summer, protests broke out against the oppression of the government as well as demands for more wealth redistribution (a learned habit) and this resulted in a crackdown that has been more violent than the country has seen in decades.