Mengistu Haile Mariam


Home | Introduction | Liberia | Central African Republic



Mengistu Haile Mariam was born in Walayata, Ethiopia, in 1937 to a father who was a soldier and a mother who was a household servant (Wikipedia 1). Mengistu joined the army in his early youth and graduated from the Military Academy in 1966 (Wikipedia 1). The Emperor at this time was Haile Selassie, who had ruled for many years including during the World War Two (Copely). Because of the war, a new constitution was created with the help of the Ethiopian class in 1955 (Copely).  The first attempt of a coup d’état occurred December of 1960 (Copely).  This came to a shock to Haile Selassie because Ethiopia had been in a period of progress and stability (Copely). Until 1974, Ethiopia was filled with corruption, inflation and famine (Copley). September 12, 1974, the Derg or Dergue, a military group in which Mengistu was a soldier overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie (Copely). Haile Selassie died the next year however there are some conflicting views as to how. He was either strangled or tortured by Mengistu himself (Copely).


From 1976 until 1991, Mengistu ruled the country of Ethiopia. Beginning in 1976, Mengistu became the head of state and head of the Derg. Mengistu had the second largest army, navy and airforce in Sub- Suharan Africa (Wikipedia).  During Mengitsu’s reign there was civil war. Mengistu was primarily against members of the anti-mengistu Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Part (EPRP) ( The EPRP declared that the Mengistu had started a campaign of “Red Terror” while Mengistu accused the EPRP of starting the campaign of “White Terror”. Either way there was a lot of terror present during Mengistu’s reign, which is one key factor needed to have a totalitarian regime. Mengistu ordered his secret police (the Derg) to arrest or execute anyone looking suspicious. During this time thousands of people showed up dead in the streets (Human Rights Watch). His overall plan was extremely organized and reached every level of society.  It started with neighborhood meetings discussing how they were going to “eliminate individual suspects”. Everyone was required “to sign the documents to confirm the decision reached at the end of the meeting” (Human Rights Watch). September 10, 1987 Mengistu became a real president in a new country called the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. His new regime was filled with drought and famine as well (Human Rights Watch).  In 1991, Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe with many Dergue officers and was considered an official “guest” in Robert Mugabe’s regime (  To this day he lives in Zimbabewe. About half a million people were killed, tortured or “disappeared” (Human Rights Watch).  Mengistu’s early regime was filled with suspicion, murder and famine.


With the help of Eritrea the Ethiopian people’s Revolutionary Democratic Front helped Ethiopia gain Independence in 1993. In 1992 the government created the Special prosecutor’s Office to investigate the crimes committed during  Mengistu’s reign. (