US admits helping Mengistu escape

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at
Mon Dec 20 13:41:55 MST 1999


Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 17:54 GMT

US admits helping Mengistu escape

 Mengistu was in power for 17 years

 The United States embassy in Zimbabwe has confirmed
 the US was involved in finding a safe haven for the
 former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.

 The embassy said in a statement that then Assistant
 Secretary of State Hank Cohen had been involved in
 negotiations which resulted in Mengistu coming to
 Harare in 1991.

 While the US recognises that Mengistu's military
 regime - the Dergue - was involved in crimes and
 atrocities, it argues that the leader's departure from
 Addis Ababa was necessary to end the civil war and
 bring peace to Ethiopia

 Up to 500 000 people were killed during Mengistu's
 so-called red terror, according to Amnesty

 Notoriously, soldiers of the Dergue would not release a
 victim's body for burial until the victim's family had
 paid back the cost of the bullet used in the killing.

 Thousands of members of the Dergue regime are
 currently in prison awaiting trial in Ethiopia.

 Deflecting criticism

 Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe first mentioned
 US involvement in Mengistu's escape to try to deflect
 criticism that Zimbabwe was harbouring a dictator who
 deserved to be judged for his crimes

 Mengistu is accommodated in a luxury mansion in
 Harare and some Zimbabweans are outraged that their
 taxes are being spent in this way.

 Mr Mugabe said with some pride that the Americans
 had offered financial assistance, but that this had not
 been necessary.

 The current Ethiopian Government is keen to have
 Mengistu arrested, and requested his extradition when
 he visited South Africa recently for medical treatment.

 South Africa said eventually that it would consider
 extradition, but Mengistu returned to Zimbabwe before
 procedures could begin.

 Mengistu said he had helped Southern African freedom
 fighters, and that this was one reason why he did not
 think South Africa's ANC government would send him
 back to Ethiopia.

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