The Ethiopian Television has reported that remains of 30 people, who were long-time political prisoners of the Derg and later extra-judicially executed in 1986 by the Derg, were laid to rest at the Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum in Finfinne (Addis Ababa). The caskets arrived at the Memorial Museum in a funeral procession through the streets of Finfinne from the Special Prosecutor’s Office, where they were held after being exhumed from the ground of the Kotebe Derg’s Intelligence office by an Argentinean forensic anthropology team in the mid 1990’s.
The Murdered Oromo Prisoners
Among the 30 murdered in cold-blood by the Derg in October 1986 were four Oromo political prisoners of the notorious Maa’ikalaawii (Central) prison: Obbo Muhee Abdo, Obbo Gezahegne Kassahun, Obbo Kebede Demissie and Obbo Yigezu Wake.
According to an Amnesty International Report, in addition to being ardent Oromo nationalists, the four executed prisoners were:
Gezahegne Kassahun – former first deputy chairman, All Ethiopia Trades Union,
Kebede Demissie – former Ministry of Agriculture official,
Muhee Abdo – civil servant and university graduate,
Yigezu Wake – former army lieutenant.
Brutality on Muhee Abdoo Represents the Brutality on the Generation
Obbo Muhee Abdo was an active member of the Ethiopian Students Movement at the Addis Ababa (formerly, the Haile-Sellassie) University in the early 1970’s. He later became a member of the 5-men Oromo Liberation Front’s top leadership, known as the Supreme Politico Military Command (SPMC), in September 1977.
In his book, Prison of Conscience: Upper Compound Maa’kalaawii, Obbo Ibsaa Guutama, who had been a political prison with Obbo Muhee Abdo at Maa’ikalaawii, notes:
“It’s suffice to mention four victims of state brutality that the writer believes would represent that restless generation, four outstanding student leaders of the epoch, Waalilliny Mokonin, Haayilee Fidaa, Brihana Masqal Raddaa, and Muhee Abdoo Abbaa Duulaa.”
Recounting that October night, when fellow prisoners were called out from Maa’ikalaawii by the security guards to be herded to the Kotebe execution ground, Obbo Ibsaa Guutama in the same book says:
“From the Upper Compound, Muhee Abdoo and Gazaheny Kaasaahun were called [out]. It was already heard that several old prisoners from the Karchallee had arrived presumably to be released. Gazaheny informed this writer about their arrival, shortly before he himself was called out. The subsequent addition of the two comrades [Muhee and Gazaheny] raised doubt. After some time, the Administration sent for their belongings. That was an enough clue for something bad [had happened to Muhee and Gazaheny.] All their comrades were numbed. They did not know how to respond.”
Exhuming the Bodies from Kotebe
The bodies of the 30 political prisoners, who were extra-judicially executed at the Kotebe Intelligence office by the Derg, were dug out by an Argentinean forensic anthropology team in the 1990’s at the request of the Carter Presidential Center and the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO), according to the Argentinean team’s website. The Special Prosecutor’s Office was set up to investigate and prosecute former Derg members and officials in 1992. Among others, evidences from the Kotebe executions (picture below) were presented to the Court that found Derg members, including the head of the Derg, Colonel Mengistu Haile-Mariam, guilty of mass murder and sentenced Mengistu to death in absentia.
Ropes used to strangle & execute the October 1986 Oromo martyrs: Gezahegne Kassahun, Kebede Demissie, Muhee Abdo & Yigezu Wake. Source: Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Viewer Discretion Advised)
Reporting about the executions, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team said:
“The former Makalawi prisoners that we interviewed said that late on the night of October 7, 1979 [Geez Calendar, 1986 in European Calendar], a truck arrived in the prison compound and twenty prisoners were offloaded. The night was cold and many of the new prisoners had wrapped themselves in blankets. They were put in holding cells apart from the main cellblock. The next morning, at 10-20 minutes intervals, the guards called out each of the twenty new prisoners by name and, one by one, they were marched away. Ten Makalawi prisoners were similarly called out and taken away. The thirty men never returned, and by late afternoon rumors began to circulate that they had all been executed.”
For additional information, refer to the following:
– Reports by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team
– Book: Guutama, Ibsaa, “Prison of Conscience: Upper Compound Maa’kalaawii,” Gubirmans Publishing, New York, 2003
AFP: Ethiopia reburies Mengistu victims
ADDIS ABABA — Dozens of Ethiopians marched Thursday to rebury family members massacred during dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam’s “Red Terror” purge which claimed tens of thousands of lives some 30 years ago.
A funeral convoy of dark vehicles made its way through the capital’s main streets carrying coffins draped in the Ethiopian flag, as a military band played sombre tunes.
Relatives observed a minute’s silence at a museum where they were to be re-buried.
The museum opened last month after three years of construction. It is to honour victims of the 1977-78 campaign of state terror carried out on Mengistu’s orders to wipe out his opponents.
Only ten bodies have been identified since they were exhumed in 1994 by Argentinian forensic experts from a former security compound in the north of Addis Ababa.
“These young Ethiopian victims were rounded up by government agents and strangled by rope in 1978,” Ayne Tsige, the head of the victims’ association, told AFP.
Sixty-seven year-old Zeineba Seid recalled the events that followed her brother’s disappearance.
“They kept telling us he was alive and well. We only confirmed after the bodies were found,” she said, referring to local authorities.
Her brother’s remains were identified in 1994 with the help of her own DNA.
“Although his loss is painful for us all, I am extremely happy that we have finally laid him to rest,” said Meaza Gulema, a cousin of the slain man.
Mengistu, now in exile in Zimbabwe, was sentenced in absentia two years ago to death for genocide along with 17 of his henchmen following a decade-long trial in Addis Ababa.
The former army lieutenant-colonel was a member of the Marxist junta known as the Derg which ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991 after the ouster of emperor Haile Selassie.
As many as 100,000 people were killed during the campaign as Mengistu sought to transform the country into a Soviet-style workers’ state.
The regime, then battling a number of insurgencies throughout the country, used several tactics to scare opponents, one of which was leaving dead bodies on streets as a warning.