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  • Quest to extradite Ethiopia's dictator Mengistu as Mugabe departs Posted on 11 December 2017

    Zimbabwe's ex-President Robert Mugabe gave refuge to Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, convicted of genocide in Ethiopia. Mugabe's departure has raised hopes that Haile Mariam could be extradited, but this is all uncertain.

    Äthiopien Anhänger Arbeiterpartei (Getty Images/AFP/A. Joe)

     

    In a move that stunned the world, Zimbabwe’s defense forces ousted President Robert Mugabe from power on November 21, 2017, bringing his 37 years of strongman rule to an end. When his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, took office three days later, a new chapter opened for the country.

    Emmerson Mnangagwa being sworn in (Reuters/M. Hutchings)

    Has Mnangagwa's inauguration ushered in a new era for Zimbabwe?

    Major General SB Moyo, the country’s chief of staff logistics, said the transition was aimed at ending social and economic suffering and bringing criminals to justice. The unfolding transition of power with its promise of change has brought hope not only to Zimbabweans but also to other Africans.

    Mengistu Haile Mariam (Getty Images/A. Mohamed)

    Haile Mariam: a cruel leader

    One such hope is that Ethiopia’s former Marxist-leaning leader Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam could finally be brought to justice. Mugabe gave Haile Mariam a residency permit after the latter fled Ethiopia in 1991. His motive for giving Haile Mariam refuge was thought to be to allow the Ethiopian ex-leader to train and arm Zimbabweans during their liberation struggle in the 1970s.

    In a campaign aimed at repressing political dissent that would become called the "Red Terror," Mengistu’s administration was alleged to have killed an estimated half a million people, including the last emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie.

    After the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power, a court sentenced Mengistu to life in prison in absentia. Although the Ethiopian government requested his extradition in 2006, Mugabe reportedly refused to hand over the ex-leader, who was at the time his adviser on Ethiopia’s security affairs.

    Social media hopes of repatriation

    Social media users in Ethiopia have recently been asking about the fate of the 80-year-old Mengistu now that Mugabe is gone.

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