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Ethiopia’s Red Terror

The Denver Post

Between 1976 and 1978, a Marxist government in Ethiopia killed as many as 500,000 of the country’s citizens in a bloodbath called the Red Terror.

The terror grew out of a relatively peaceful movement to end the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. A political vacuum was created when the emperor was deposed by a military junta in 1974 and a council of military members known as the Derg took over.

The Marxist government abolished the parliament, suspended the constitution and arrested the emperor, who died in custody. The Derg nationalized all land using the slogan “land to the tiller of the soil.”

In 1976, the Derg began rounding up and killing those suspected of being members of a resistance movement. According to a website that memorializes victims of Africa’s human rights atrocities, arbitrary arrests, torture and sexual assault became the norm.

Prisoners were burned, flogged, hung by the arms, according to alembekagn.org . People had fingernails ripped out, and men had their testicles crushed.

Kiflu Ketema, who was imprisoned at Kefetegna 15, a makeshift prison in Addis Ababa, said he saw guards attach newspapers to fellow prisoners’ backs and set them on fire.

He saw others whipped, and he often heard gunshots ring out as executions were conducted outside the makeshift cells, the website said.

Bodies were dumped on the street outside the prison, Ketema said.

Children became targets, and in 1978 Save the Children protested that kids, many under 13, were being killed.

By the end of the 1980s, the regime was losing financial and military support from the Soviet Union. Long-standing liberation movements consolidated forces, forming the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In 1991, the EPRDF entered Addis Ababa and took control of the country.



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