Mengistu Haile Mariam
former General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia
Mengistu Haile Mariam (born 21 May 1937) was the communist leader of Ethiopia (1974-1991) during the Ethiopian Civil War, and the most prominent member of the Derg, the military junta responsible for the deposition of Haile Selassie. Since his overthrow, he has been granted asylum in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe.
- I am a revolutionary; my life is dedicated to freeing the people.
- As quoted in David A. Korn (1986) Ethiopia, the United States and the Soviet Union, Southern Illinois University Press, page 61
- what is important to me as it is for the Ethiopian people, is the unity of the country, the sovereignty of the country and I'm not ready to compromise on that.
- 1990 interview to news maker.
- When we planned our country's economic development, we had the strategic objective of our Revolution in mind. It was not planned for economic development [to be] solely an end in itself. There are some who have forgotten that the sole basis of our revolutionary struggle was the ideology and politics which we follow...
- As quoted in John M. Cohen (1987) Integrated Rural Development: The Ethiopian Experience and the Debate, p. 213
- All I can say is that living for 17 years without rest from fighting, dealing with problem after problem, war after war, and crisis after crisis, every day and every hour was very difficult.
interview to the Johannesburg daily, 'The Star
- Henceforth we will tackle our enemies that come face to face with us and we will not be stabbed in from behind by internal foes... To this end, we will arm the allies and comrades of the broad masses without giving respite to reactionaries, and avenge the blood of our comrades double - and triple - fold.
- February 5 (1977), as quoted by Dawit Wolde Giorgis (1989) Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press Inc., p. 31
- One of the fundamental preconditions of successful socialist construction is to ensure the people's readiness to defend themselves from the ravages of probable regional or global wars on the basis of the balance of forces generating from the basic contradictions of our epoch.
- As quoted in Edmund J. Keller (1991) Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People's Republic, Indiana University Press, p. 212
- In this country, some aristocratic families automatically categorize persons with dark skin, thick lips, and kinky hair as "Barias" [Amharic for slave]... let it be clear to everybody that I shall soon make these ignoramuses stoop and grind corn!
- As quoted in Dr. Paulos Milkia's "Mengistu Haile Mariam: The Profile of a Dictator", reprinted from the February 1994 Ethiopian Review
- [Haile Selassie] was 80 years old and a very weak man. We tried our best to save him but we could not keep him.
- [Haile Selassie] died a natural death, as far as I know. I can't deny that there were many of my men who would have been glad to kill him with their bare hands to avenge the fathers and brothers they had lost due to him. The doctor looking after him told me nothing about any deterioration in his health, so there was no way I could personally ascertain what happened.
- As quoted in Riccardo Orizio, Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, (Walker and Company, 2003), p. 145
- When [Nelson Mandela] was in prison I admired him for his moral strength...
Of his period in power I can see few results. Apartheid no longer exists, at least to all appearances, but no one understands what the new government in South Africa is doing.
- As quoted in Riccardo Orizio, Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, (Walker and Company, 2003), p. 148
- I'm a military man, I did what I did only because my country had to be saved from tribalism and feudalism. If I failed, it was only because I was betrayed. The so-called genocide was nothing more than just a war in defence of the revolution and a system from which all have benefited.
- As quoted in Riccardo Orizio, Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, (Walker and Company, 2003), p. 150
- We fought them when they sought to dismember the nation. Is this why I should seek exoneration?
- If I had resigned on my own accord, to whom would I have transferred the reigns of power?
- We did not even know his name.
- We thought that the proletariat would eventually run the world. But it is the Americans who have assumed that position... The American people have changed.
- Ethiopia did not have the same problem [of corruption]. African leaders looked at us with envy.
- Mugabe fought and liberated his country from colonists. But I am here as a guest of the Zimbabwe people. I am not a personal guest of Mugabe. And veterans of the liberation struggle are well aware of this fact.
- Mengistu strikes me as a quiet, honest and convinced leader who is aware of the power of the masses. He is an intellectual personality who showed his wisdom on February 3. The rightists wanted to do away with the leftists on February 3. The prelude to this was an exuberant speech by the Ethiopian president in favor of nationalism. Mengistu met this challenge. He delayed the meeting of the Revolutionary Council by one hour and had the rightist leaders arrested and shot. A very consequential decision was taken on February 3. The political landscape of the country changed, which has enabled them to take steps that were impossible before them. Before it was only possible to support the leftist forces indirectly. Now we can do so without any constraints.*
- Fidel Castro (1977) Minutes of the conversation between Comrade Erich Honecker and Comrade Fidel Castro, Sunday, April 3, 1977 between 11:00 and 13:30 and 15:45 and 18:00, House of the Central Committee, Berlin.
- Mengistu seemed to symbolize the revolution. He was the baria, the slave who overthrew the master, the member of the conquered tribe who got even with the conquerors, the poorly educated son of a servant who rose against the intellectual elite.
- David Ottaway (1978) Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution, Africana Publishing Company, p. 135
- For me and for many others, Mengistu was the best choice [as chairman of the military council] for several reasons. He had come from a poor family background and was not an Amhara, the dominant ethnic group under Haile Selassie. As a person and as a junior officer he represented our rejection of past values. He would bring about a greater sense that all Ethiopians were equal, an end to class arrogance and racism. Many of us felt he would embody the spirit of the Revolution and symbolize the change we wanted to bring about.
- Dawit Wolde Giorgis (1989) Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press Inc., p. 17
- After Mengistu consolidated his power in 1978, his personality gradually began to change. His ability to listen and his patience faded away. We could now see these qualities were pretences only; he had been putting on his best behavior in his bid for support.
- Dawit Wolde Giorgis (1989) Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press Inc., p. 48
- Everything Mengistu has done since 1977 has been to place himself in a position of uncontestable power. Neither Haile Selassie nor any of the previous emperors had this insatiable thirst for power.
- Dawit Wolde Giorgis (1989) Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press Inc., p. 56
- Mengistu does not understand the meaning of self-determination, either historically or in the abstract. He cannot conceive of a nation as anything but an absolute centralized authority, totalitarianism, for his rule is nothing less than that now.
- Dawit Wolde Giorgis (1989) Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press Inc., p. 112
- From now on you must pray for your people and yourself three times a day.
- Mother Teresa, as quoted by Dawit Wolde Giorgis (1989) Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press Inc., p. 213
- The style of Mengistu's exercise of power is very much in the traditional imperial pattern. He really is a sort of second-rate Communist emperor. In March 1988 during my most recent visit to Ethiopia, I found it striking how attitudes toward him resemble attitudes toward previous Ethiopian rulers. But there are important differences between Mengistu and his predecessors. The system is highly authoritarian and paternalistic but much more coercive than the previous regime of Haile Selassie, and much more intrusive in all aspects of life.
- Paul B. Henze, as quoted in James Finn (1990) Ethiopia, the politics of famine, University Press of America, p. 11
- Menghistu had the problem of coming from... a very dubious background socially of coming from the South West of the country from a border region he didn't have good Ethiopian credentials. Good blue blood of any kind. There were rumors in later years that supposedly he had descended from some Ethiopian emperor, but there was no evidence whatsoever that this was the case. Therefore Menghistu felt necessary to prove his nationalism and he had to prove he was as tough as anybody else and he was desirous of protecting Ethiopia's interests.
- Interview with Paul Henze, (Feb. 14, 1999)
- When as an American emissary I met him in September 1977 in his office in the Menelik Palace, I was struck at how much darker he was than his portrait on the wall behind him. The fact that he was more Negroid than the average Ethiopian highlander gave him an inferiority complex.
- Paul B. Henze (2000), Layers of time: a history of Ethiopia, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, p. 290
- Africa's downfall has always been the cult of the personality. And their names always seem to begin with M. We've had Mobutu and Mengistu and I'm not going to add Meles to the list.
- Meles Zenawi, as quoted in Jonathan Dimbleby, "Ethiopia proves there can be life after death", The Guardian, 28 July, 2002.
- Major Mengistu Haile Mariam sounds like someone who likes Ethiopia very much, and as someone who has a great love for his country. But he has no love for anyone save for himself. He gives the impression of someone who has dreams for the growth, development and prosperity of Ethiopia, though he doesn't know how development and prosperity come about. He is an extremely cruel person who doesn't know pardon, forgiveness or kindness. He readily listens to what others tell him about someone, then acts upon that information without verifying the truth. He defends those who favoured him... He is very happy when he is flattered, but doesn't trust anyone, and is even suspicious (afraid) of his own shadow. He will do anything to promote his personal interest. He has the good habit of carefully listening to someone else's ideas and subsequently presenting those ideas as if they were his own (as if these ideas originated from him). He is very jealous and suffers from an inferiority complex. My dear friend Major Mengistu Haile Mariam lies a bit too.
- Major Endale Tessema, as quoted in Captain Tesfaye Riste (2009), Misekerenet Bebaale Seltanatu Andabet.
- Mengistu is a barbaric and cruel creature who becomes happy with the death of human beings.
- Major Kassaye Aragaw, as quoted in Captain Tesfaye Riste (2009), Misekerenet Bebaale Seltanatu Andabet.