Wednesday, December 13, 2006

News from Africa

Yes, it’s a bad year for dictators. Really bad.

There are reports this morning that the former Marxist ruler of Ethiopia, the particularly odious Mengistu Haile Mariam, has been found guilty of genocide.

Along with 11 co-defendants, Mengistu was convicted in absentia by the Ethiopian Federal Court of more than 200 counts of genocide, homicide, illegal imprisonment and illegal confiscation of property.

According to this report in The Times, the charges relate to atrocities committed during what became known as the Red Terror, unleashed across the country in 1977 and 1978.

During that time, it is estimated that Mengistu and his cronies ordered the death or disappearance of tens of thousands of opponents, forcing the families of executed prisoners to pay a tax known as “the wasted bullet” to obtain the bodies of their loved ones.

At the height of his power, Mengistu is said to have himself frequently garrotted or shot dead opponents, saying that he was leading by example.

Known as the Pol Pot of Africa for his absolute cruelty, Mengistu was ousted in 1991 and currently lives in exile in Zimbabwe. Which means he is unlikely to be deported back to Ethiopia to face sentencing.

And his number one backer at the time of the Red Terror? Fidel Castro, of course.


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