Former Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, who has been living in Zimbabwe for the past 17 years as an honoured guest of Robert Mugabe, could be extradited when opposition MDC joins an all-inclusive government next week.
According to media reports from the capital Harare, the Ethiopian dictator who slaughtered opponents en masse, and is living lavishly in Zimbabwe might soon be heading home if the opposition has anything to do with it.
Last year an Ethiopian court sentenced the “Butcher of Addis” to death after convicting him of genocide in absentia but Mr Mugabe flatly refused to extradite the man who helped to arm Zanu (PF)’s guerrillas during Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation war.
Opposition spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, told a newspaper yesterday that Mengistu’s extradition to Ethiopia would be “high on the agenda” of that new administration.
“Zimbabwe should not be a safe haven or resting place for serial human rights violators like Mr Mengistu,” he was quoted as saying. “We can’t shelter purveyors of injustice.”
Mengistu is believed to be advising Mugabe on security issues, and was allegedly the mastermind of Operation Murambatsvina in 2006 in which security forces razed the homes of 700,000 slum-dwellers regarded as MDC supporters.
Mengistu seized power after a military coup in 1974 that ended Emperor Haile Selassie’s 44-year rule. In 1976 he mounted the “Red Terror” campaign against opponents of his Derg regime by standing in the centre of Addis Ababa, shouting: “Death to the counter-revolutionaries”, and smashing bottles filled with pigs’ blood to demonstrate the fate that awaited them.
More than half a million people are believed to have been killed in what Human Rights Watch called “one of the most systematic uses of mass murder ever witnessed in Africa”.
In 1995 Mengistu narrowly survived an assassination attempt by two Eritreans as he took an afternoon stroll with his wife near Garvin Close, his Harare home.
In 1999, using a Zimbabwean diplomatic passport, he flew to Johannesburg for medical treatment, and gave a rare interview to a South African newspaper in which he claimed his socialist revolution had been necessary to remove Selassie’s “backward, archaic and feudalist system”, and that millions of peasants had benefited.