Published On  Oct 09,  2011






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Two things define the collective disposition of Revolutionary Democrats. Despite popular resentment and frequent resistance, they stubbornly push through issues they believe in; all it takes is for them to be convinced. And they like surprises, too.

The release from jail of 16 most senior leaders of the military Marxist regime of Ethiopia last week qualifies to fit into both these. The decision to let the 16 leaders of the Derg off the hook is nowhere near popular - many victims of the regime are outright hostile to the very idea of seeing these people out and about in Addis Abeba. Nonetheless, the Revolutionary Democrats feel it is time to let them loose.

The surprise is not so much about the release, but the timing of it all, gossip noticed.

The possibility of their release surfaced back in 2007, after the Revolutionary Democrats let out of  prison their archrival opponents who regrouped under the banner of CUD.

The trio in the elders committee - Ephraim Isaac (Prof.), Daniel Gebresellasie and Haile Gebresellasie - pursued the idea of further reconciliation by releasing leaders of the Derg, after the idea was effectively sold to them by people like the late Haile Woldemichael (PhD), Solomon, a former high-ranking military officer of the air force, and Tadesse, former auditor-general, known to be close to Fisseha Desta (Army Captain) one of the 16 released last week, gossip claims.

If these people had got their way, the 16 leaders of the Derg were meant to walk out of the gates of the infamous “Alem Bekagn”, now demolished, during the year of the Ethiopian Millennium, disclosed gossip.

Unanticipated strong opposition from victims and families saw the case taken to the religious leaders of the central faith, who were advised by the Prime Minister to preach the idea of forgiveness to their respective followers, according to gossip. The Patriarch, who himself intoned a couple of times on being incarcerated for a year under the Derg, unsuccessfully tried to influence the views of outraged relatives of the 60 senior officials of the Emperor killed in the mid 1970s, claims gossip.

Gossip claims the Patriarch managed to raise a 2.4 million Br fund from a dinner he hosted at his residence from those who likened to the idea of forgiveness and national reconciliation. Those who have been quietly lobbying for the release of the Derg officials are now also organizing a dinner between the Patriarch, who is now abroad, and two of the high ranking officials of the released in a bid to create a platform for the latter to pledge a formal apology to all the victims of their rule and beg forgiveness, gossip learnt.

In the absence of the victims and their families coming to terms with it all, many in Addis Abeba are hostile about the Derg officials trying to go about their daily lives, gossip noticed. The senior members of the group released seem to be very conscious of this, according to gossip. Those who worked so hard to secure their release were busy trying to gauge the public mood in the days following their release. They seem to feel it will not be offensive of them to appear in public.

For the moment though, the released have chosen to stay away from the public eye. For instance, Fikresellasie Wogderes (Army Capitan) is at the residence of Ketema Kebede, major shareholder of K.K. Plc and one of the richest businessmen in Addis Ababa. He is known to have come from the same area in Northern Shoa where Fikresellasie grew up and was a benefactor of the latter while he was in power. Fisseha has joined his wife, Haregewoin, in her home inside Ayat Residential Complex, and is assisted by Tadesse. Ketema and Tadesse are hailed as superb models of friendship and loyalty, standing by each other through thick and thin for two decades, claims gossip.

Legesse Asfaw (Army Sergeant) is staying at a relative’s residence around Megenagna, while a few, such as Endale Tessema (Army Col.), have not as yet been lucky enough to find a place to stay. He reportedly was not admitted in a hotel on Cape Verdi Street, gossip claims. He is being helped by former associates to find shelter in an apartment off Marshal Tito Road, gossip disclosed.



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