Mengistu found guilty of genocide

Ethiopia’s ex-ruler and Leonid Brezhnev’s African superstar, Mengistu, was found guilty in absentia for genocide today. He fled Ethiopia for Zimbabwe after the capital, Addis Ababa, was taken by rebel forces in 1991. He has been tried in absentia by a regime that itself is now having real problems with keeping its repression from running totally out of control. Still, Mengistu was definitely a bloody tyrant despite his original revolutionary drive. Under his Dergue regime, somewhere beetween 1 and 2 million died during his time in power, either from famine, through war, or directly through assassinations ordered by Mengistu’s people. He deserves his conviction, though he alone was not responsible for all those who died.

The problem one has though in assigning responsibility for crimes such as genocide, is that often there is so much blame to share all around. All of Africa became an arena for proxy fights in the ‘Great’ Cold War between the US plus its allies Portugal, France, Spain, Belgium, Britain, and the White Apartheid regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa, all combined in struggle to keep the former Soviet Union from influencing the region in alliance with various indegenous rebel groups. This combined European-US interventionism caused the deaths of millions upon millions of Africans. And yet no genocide trial for the Whites.

Much has been made of Brezhnev’s miserable decision to have Russians fight it out on foreign soil in Afghanistan against the Islamic proxy troops of the US. This was actually a reasonable fight though, since what went on in that country certainly effected the Soviet Union, too. But why on earth Brezhnev continued to side and fund Mengistu in the Horn of Africa wars is hard for many to understand. He truly was a totally incompetent and corrupt leader, and his decisions he took in regard to the African tribal conflicts, certainly had a major effect on what ultimately led later on to Gorbachev’s own reaccionry and embecilic policies. That in turn led to the ultimate fall of the Soviet Union back into a group of many barbaric and often warring, Fourth World capitalist states.

That all being said, one positive effect of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, is that it pulled the rug out from under Mengistu’s foreign funding for war in the Horn of Africa. When he finally fell in 1991 from power, he was about as credible as Pol Pot had become in Kampuchea after beating back the US in SE Asia. Lesson learned once again? An intial revolutionary movement that comes to power with war being waged continuously by imperialist powers against it, can lead to a meltdown of the revolution and a total disintegration into slaughter and famine.

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