An Explanatory Repetition


Author: Fikreselassie Wogderes Publisher: Tsehai publishers Year of publication: 2014

450 pp

Price: 200 ETB

Edition: Paperback

By Neamin Ashenafi Many individuals who were leaders and members of the Ethiopian revolution are writing their memoirs and outlooks from different perspectives and trying to bring to light the process of the establishment, the success and failures of the Derg, a military junta that administered Ethiopia for 17 years and was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF.)

The Derg, which means in Ethiopia’s oldest language Ge’ez, “committee” or “council” is the short name of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army. It took power following the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Soon after it was established, the committee was formally renamed the Provisional Military Administrative Council, but continued to be known popularly as “Derg.” It embraced communism as an ideology throughout the time of its stay in power. Many blamed and accused the Derg of executing and imprisoning tens of thousands of its opponents without trial. Though it was a fact that many were executed without trial, the leaders of the movement are starting and striving to show the other side of the story and are trying to defend their position which resulted in many Ethiopians running away from their homeland and living in various parts of the world in exile, mainly in Europe and North America and of course neighboring countries like the Sudan.

Since its establishment, the Derg has faced various criticisms and oppositions from various political parties and the student movement, and many opposition political parties were established to fight the system. Here the perplexing point is that most of the parties including the Derg were claimed to have a political ideology of socialism and working for the betterment of Ethiopia however, many of them failed to narrow their gaps and fought to implement their own version of socialism and make the country a land of clashes and devastation.

The new book – written by one of the most powerful men in the country – the Prime Minister of Ethiopia during the Derg regime, falls under this spectrum in telling what really happened during that particular period. Fikreselassie is among many senior officials of the Derg who spent twenty years in jail and was freed after he was pardoned by the government.

The book has 19 chapters and many subsections that cover various issues of the time containing a conclusion and an index. In addition pictures that depict the situation and the condition of the country during that period are also part of this book.

The book started its narration of the history of the moment highlighting the revolution, which makes the book quite interesting especially for someone who is not acquainted with the background of the story that lead to the revolution.

It gives a very brief introduction to the living conditions of Ethiopians during the imperial regime and how the relationship between the public, the emperor and the local administrators were the aggravating factors for change. His presentation about the historical background of the relationship between the public, the emperor and the local administrator are presented in very short pages but gives a highlight about the order of the day and invites any interested to investigate the issue further.

Following descriptions of some sort of initial explanations of the condition about the situation, the writer discusses two attempted activities within the army to overthrow the emperor before the Derg was established. In this part the writer covers why the first two movements were not succeeded and failed. This part of the book also shows how the emperor and his allies were trying to control the movement of the army. Subsequent to presenting the early activities of the Derg the writer describes the first major activities of the Derg during its early periods of the movement, especially in spreading its motto “Ethiopia First,” and the proclamation and orders of “Land to the Peasants” and “Democracy and Equality to All” which allowed the Derg to win the hearts of many and mobilize public support. The writer argued that initially the Derg was popular following the introduction of its slogan and the introduction of the new land proclamations and the overthrow of the emperor but failed to say anything when this acceptance turned into resistance as he discusses the successes. This is among the limitations of the book.

The book covers many years of the Derg, from its inception to its end, the relationship between the Derg and other political parties, the student movements, the Ethio- Somali war, the execution of the sixties, the relationship it had with the communist block and much more. Since the writer claims to fill historical gaps and much is expected from him in revealing facts, most of the stories in the book are covered in one way or another by other writers who write about the issue.

Coming from an individual who led the system for about 15 years as a high ranking official, though it is expected to clear the confusion and answer questions, the book remains the same as many books already published in relation to the establishment, success and failure of the Derg, vague. However, as the writer indicated in the introductory part of the book, he plans to publish other works over the issue, he might reveal some necessary historical facts and hidden issues in his next work to narrow the historical gaps, as he wants to.

Source : The Reporter

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