Monday, April 23, 2007

Horn of Africa Week: The exile problem

As we all know, there's been quite a lot of news about Robert Mugabe's declining fortunes in Zimbabwe lately. There has been focus on the state of the economy, the harried political opposition and so forth, but I notice one story of interest missing from all the discussion regarding Mugabe's future. Namely, if Mugabe is ousted, what happens to exiled Ethiopian dictator Haile Mengistu Miriam? What happens to an ousted dictator when his dictator patron is knocked out, anyway?

After his ouster in a 1991 coup d'etat, Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe where he was received in exile as a personal guest of Robert Mugabe, and given what has been described as a "lush" estate in the Harare suburb of Gunhill, protected by bodyguards provided by the Zimbabwean secret police, ostensibly to protect him from being kidnapped and dragged back to Ethiopia where he was convicted in absentia for crimes against humanity committed during his reign.

However, Mugabe's own position in Zimbabwe is increasingly untenable, and it's a good bet that whoever replaces him will be in no mood to extend such high profile hospitality to a notorious former dictator. Just ask former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor, who found himself deported from exile Nigeria back to Liberia and onwards to a war crimes trial in Sierra Leone. Mengistu is one of the last remaining former Marxist dictators on the continent, which is what prompted fellow Marxist Mugabe to offer him a cushy home in exile. With the odds of Mugabe himself finding safe refuge in exile after his seemingly inevitable ouster so slim, the chance that anyone will also Mengistu as part of a two-for-one deal are practically nil. Even Ethiopia's sworn enemy, Eritrea, won't have anything to do with Mengistu, as Eritrea was especially brutalized by Mengistu when it was still a part of Ethiopia.

I suppose there may still be a place for a former Marxist tyrant with blood on his hands to live free of charge as a guest of the state. Perhaps Cuba? Venezuela? San Francisco? I'm not sure who would have him, but when Mugabe's time is finished, be sure to keep an eye peeled for news regarding one of the world's most loathsome political refugees.


Anonymous said...

SanFrancisco sounds perfect as Americans were the facilitators for him to go to Zimbabwe :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Roger,

Until now, I could not remember where I read it, but here is the source for the above comment I made a while back. It is a book I read, title and some exerpt included below.

Collapsed States by William Zartman

The EPLF overran Ethiopian garrisons at Massawa and closed in on Asmara. Finaly, on may 21, 1991, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Herman Cohen, secured the departure of Mengistu from Addis Ababa to exile in Zimbabwe. Before he left, Mengistu had appointed a new prime minister, Tesfai Dinka, to lead the Ethiopian delegation to the London peace talks.

Don't you love politics :)

By the way I enjoy your blog, although you don't criticize enough the western governments for setting bad examples and their lack of integrity.