Ethiopia reburies Mengistu victims

Ethiopia Red Terror Victims Photos
Visitors look at pictures of victims of Ethiopia's 'Red Terror' campaign

ADDIS ABABA —(AFP)  Dozens of Ethiopians marched Thursday to rebury family members massacred during dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam’s “Red Terror” purge which claimed tens of thousands of lives some 30 years ago.

A funeral convoy of dark vehicles made its way through the capital’s main streets carrying coffins draped in the Ethiopian flag, as a military band played sombre tunes.

Relatives observed a minute’s silence at a museum where they were to be re-buried.

The museum opened last month after three years of construction. It is to honour victims of the 1977-78 campaign of state terror carried out on Mengistu’s orders to wipe out his opponents.

Only ten bodies have been identified since they were exhumed in 1994 by Argentinian forensic experts from a former security compound in the north of Addis Ababa.

“These young Ethiopian victims were rounded up by government agents and strangled by rope in 1978,” Ayne Tsige, the head of the victims’ association, told AFP.

Sixty-seven year-old Zeineba Seid recalled the events that followed her brother’s disappearance.

“They kept telling us he was alive and well. We only confirmed after the bodies were found,” she said, referring to local authorities.

Her brother’s remains were identified in 1994 with the help of her own DNA.

“Although his loss is painful for us all, I am extremely happy that we have finally laid him to rest,” said Meaza Gulema, a cousin of the slain man.

Mengistu, now in exile in Zimbabwe, was sentenced in absentia two years ago to death for genocide along with 17 of his henchmen following a decade-long trial in Addis Ababa.

The former army lieutenant-colonel was a member of the Marxist junta known as the Derg which ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991 after the ouster of emperor Haile Selassie.

As many as 100,000 people were killed during the campaign as Mengistu sought to transform the country into a Soviet-style workers’ state.

The regime, then battling a number of insurgencies throughout the country, used several tactics to scare opponents, one of which was leaving dead bodies on streets as a warning.