Senior Officials of the Derg Government (1974-1991)
stand trial before the Supreme Court of Ethiopia (Reuters).
By: Samuel M. Gebru (@smgebru)
October 6, 2011

Yesterday, the Government of Ethiopia released 16 of 23 senior officials of the Derg Military Government that brutally controlled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1991. The officials were convicted for crimes against humanity by the Supreme Court of Ethiopia in 2007 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

After a 20-year imprisonment, the 16 officials were freed on parole and sources share that the remaining will be free soon. I am thankful that Ethiopia’s Evangelical, Orthodox and Catholic Churches and the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council have advocated for national reconciliation. I strongly disagree, however, that the senior Derg Government officials should have been released.

The rest of their lives should be spent in a confined space leaving them to reflect on the horrors they inflicted on millions of Ethiopians. The rest of their lives should not be spent freely walking the streets they selfishly tortured for so long.

Crimes as strong and brutal as the Derg must not be forgotten, particularly by the younger generation of Ethiopians like myself, who seek to learn about and critique their past and present leaders. Ethiopia’s religious institutions must not forget the suffering inflicted on believers, as the Derg promoted atheism and defacing religious property.

Among the Derg’s most famous victims were Emperor Haile Selassie and Patriarch Tewophilos of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Millions of Ethiopians suffered at the hands of the Derg in Ethiopia and abroad. A staggering 70% of skilled Ethiopians left Ethiopia between 1980 and 1991, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

I am skeptical that the senior Derg officials sincerely requested a “pardon from God” and from the people of Ethiopia after so long, and after continuously pleading “not guilty” before the judiciary. Forgiveness and reconciliation must be promoted, but government must uphold the good—God’s word—while also being a terror to evil.

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