Nostalgia: Remembrance of Time Past in Africa

Afrobarometer is a new polling company specializing in tracking public sentiment throughout the African continent regarding democracy, governance and public policy.  It recently polled Ethiopian sentiment about the murderous rule of Mengistu Haile Mariam, the Marxist dictatorship that introduced the ruinous famine that consumed Ethiopia throughout the early 1980’s.  Formally called ‘the Derg’, this military commission identified with other Marxist militant regimes seeking self imposed slaughter of fellow Ethiopians identical to Mao’s failed policies that became the Great Leap Forward & the Cultural Revolution.  Currently residing in Zimbabwe, Mariam’s Leninist red terror which began in 1974 came to an end in ’91 after being deposed by a coalition of rebels that became the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

When Mariam’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi died in 2012, public protests throughout Ethiopia chanted ‘Come, come Mengistu’, effectively demolishing the ethnically based federalism imposed by the EPRDF.  What Afrobarometer found was an alarming rate of fond remembrance of Mengistu’s pan-Ethiopian nationalism. What most of Ethiopia’s youths can’t possibly remember is the impact of the Derg’s cult of personality.

Having sought to nationalize every firm, the vast majority of Ethiopia’s population identified with Cambodian citizens being forced into collective farms at gunpoint.  Most starved.  What most American’s cannot ever understand is how Vietnam saved Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge. Ethiopia had no neighboring successor state rescuing Addis Ababa.

Having starved ethnic minorities into submission, Mengistu Mariam fought a decade long secessionist campaign in Eritrea and Somalia.  Having won against Somalia only fortified his domestic grip.

Mangistu’s pan-Ethiopian nationalism remains alive.  Sadly, most of Ethiopia’s citizenry don’t remember the rape, pillage and slaughter that dominated the political passions of pan-African movements throughout the ’70’s.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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