Former Ethiopian army officer and president colonel Mengistu Hailemariam had an insane crush on Arab origin resident of Diredawa city. The coup that ousted Emperor Haile Selassie’s administration in 1974 was led by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. The junta, often referred to as the “Derg” or “Dergue,” was made up of roughly 100 junior officers who came from different parts of Ethiopia. The Dergue established its control by executing some sixty top members of the emperor’s cabinet after announcing a revolutionary program for the nation.
In the months that followed, assassinations of the emperor and the patriarch of the dominant Ethiopian Orthodox church both took place in secret. Early victims of the Dergue included members of the organization. Col. Mengistu orchestrated the execution of opponents from within, emerging as its uncontested commander.
Col. Mengistu, in front of a large crowd in the capital Addis Abeba, threw bottles filled with a red substance to the ground, symbolizing the blood of the revolution’s enemies, the “imperialists” and the “counter-revolutionaries,” as members of rival leftist groups were referred to by the Dergue. This was the dramatic end to a campaign of terror that he officially dubbed the “Red Terror” in 1976.
The campaign specifically targeted youngsters and students who were believed to be members of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP). In the two years that followed, thousands of young men and women were discovered dead in the streets of the capital and other cities.
They were deliberately destroyed, mostly by militia associated with the “Kebeles,” neighborhood watch groups that operated as the base level local government and security monitoring organizations during the Dergue period. When families claimed their loved ones’ bodies for burial, the Kebeles demanded that they pay the administration back for the cost of the bullets that had been used to kill them.