|MDC pledge to extradite Mengistu if they win election
By Lance Guma
27 May 2008
Ethiopia’s former dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, faces an uneasy 31 days while he still enjoys the protection of Robert Mugabe. The regime has vowed to continue protecting Mengistu, despite an Ethiopian Supreme Court sentencing him to death on Monday for a genocide that claimed the lives of 2000 people and the torture of 2400 others. But MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa has said if party leader Morgan Tsvangirai wins the June 27 presidential run-off, Mengistu will be extradited to face justice in Ethiopia.
Mengistu was initially sentenced to life in prison in January 2007 but prosecutors appealed saying the sentence did not match his crimes. Over a 17-year rule Mengistu eliminated his opponents using a combination of famine and the so-called ‘Red Terror’ purges. He was ousted in 1991 and fled to Zimbabwe where he has lived in great comfort under Mugabe’s protection. He was tried in absentia over a 12-year period, which saw the conviction of dozens of other senior officials directly responsible for the murders, torture and starvation of thousands. On Monday the Supreme Court granted the request from prosecutors and sentenced him to death.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said Tuesday: ‘Our position has not changed. He remains our guest in Zimbabwe. He will remain in Zimbabwe and we will protect him as we've always done.’ Matonga added that even a formal extradition request from the Ethiopian government would not be granted. However speaking for the MDC Chamisa said, ‘It only takes a dictator to hang around fellow dictators. They are birds of the same feather. This is why ZANU-PF is clinging on to Mengistu. We don't want dictators on our land. The people of Ethiopia suffered for such a long time.’ He added that all they wanted was for justice to be delivered for the victims, and the perpetrators as well.
Similarities between Mengistu and Mugabe could not be more obvious. Human rights groups, including the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, have documented the murder of over 20 000 ethnic Ndebele speakers in Matabeleland during the Gukurahundi Massacres in the eighties. Mugabe has also sanctioned the murder of MDC activists in the 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 elections. After the March 29 elections, which handed control of parliament to the MDC and a first round win for Tsvangirai, over 50 MDC officials and activists, have been assassinated.
Newsreel spoke to Elliot Pfebve, who along with Adella Chiminya, Efridah Pfebve, Maria Stevens and Evelyn Masaiti, took their search for justice to the United States Court of Appeal in August 2000. All 5 lost their loved ones to senseless state sponsored violence. On Tuesday Elliot Pfebve reiterated just how determined Mugabe is to hang on to power and avoid facing families seeking justice. He said the 2000 case before the US courts had still not been concluded.