Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A striking resemblance

I was reading a very good article on Mengistu (ht: Stefania), part of a series titled "Left-wing Monsters" and was struck by the similarities between the Ethiopian butcher and Mugabe:

Mengistu's war against real and imaginary rivals was executed with ferocity and decisive action. In 1976, he turned against his colleague Major Jamor Sisay Habte, ordering his execution for supposed "right-wing tendencies." In 1977, the increasingly deranged Mengistu personally executed five of his political opponents in his office.

Remember Tongogara, Chitepo, Sithole?

The agricultural situation in Ethiopia was surprisingly positive in the first years of Mengistu's reign, mostly due to the fact that Ethiopian agriculture had been a booming industry in the later years of the Selassie government. The new socialist approach reversed these gains. This decline would only accelerate in 1981, when Mengistu began to install a Stalinist type of collectivization and command agriculture industry. With further government interference, farm outlays declined precipitously.

Ring a bell?

The slaughter began in earnest immediately following Megistu's call to arms. With the aid of East German Stasi agents, Mengistu's secret police soon fanned out throughout the country, jailing and killing thousands who were arbitrarily identified as enemies of the state. Soon, many were being shot in mass executions, their bodies dumped in the streets.

Change East Germany to North Korea and you have the Fifth Brigade '80s massacres in Matabeleland.

All throughout his calamitous reign of power in Ethiopia, Mengistu made frequent use a classic communist tactic: the facilitation of class warfare. Whenever given the chance, Mengistu made mention of his love and appreciation for the "peasant class," blaming all their problems on the wealthy oppressors he had heroically overthrown. Similar to most communist despots, Mengistu's embrace of the lower-class was merely an attempt to build a reliable social base. It is doubtful that he ever genuinely believed in the strictures of Marx or Lenin, or that he ever actually understood their political philosophies.

The same, word by word.

In reality, Mengistu was dismissive of the concerns of the peasant class, never addressing their poverty or suffering. In marked contrast to his piteous citizens, Mengistu held court in a massive palace in Addis Ababa, where he was served by an army of servants and liveried butlers.

This is what we are seeing in Zimbabwe today:

The tragic famine of 1984-86 – largely induced by the nonsensical policies of Mengistu – laid bare the inadequacies of his rule. Prior to the disaster, his failings had been unassailable due to tight control of national press and a brutal secret police system. However, with much of the country descending into disorder and economic devastation, Mengistu's hold on power slackened rapidly.

Unfortunately, Zimbabweans have not yet managed to organize a full-fledged rebellion as their Ethiopian counterparts did.

It is only fitting then that the two monsters should develop a close friendship:

Following his abandonment of the country in 1991, Mengistu fled to one of the more comfortable locales for any mass-murdering despot: Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Mugabe, evidently grateful for the aid Mengistu had rendered him during his various uprisings and civil wars, gave the disgraced Ethiopian leader a palatial home in the outskirts of the capital along with a police bodyguard. Even as the mass graves were discovered and his crimes became more graphically evident, Mugabe consistently refused to hand over his friend Mengistu to the new Ethiopian government or the International Criminal Court.

Hopefully, Mugabe's retirement will be less comfortable.

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