Mengistu's Ethiopian state in terminal crisis: how long can it survive? what will be its legacy?

by Paul B. Henze


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The Marxist-Leninist, pro-Soviet Ethiopian regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam has fallen into steadily deepening crisis in 1989. The coup attempt against Mengistu in May 1989, the worsening economic situation, and the fall from power of Honecker in East Germany and Zhivkov in Bulgaria (among his few remaining supporters) all contributed to Mengistu's problems. He came under heavy Soviet criticism for his dogmatism, wrongheadedness, and failure to introduce reforms. Certain short-term factors still worked in Mengistu's favor, however, including his support of Ethiopian territorial integrity (while the strongest opposition movements are regional or separatist), and the continuing loyalty of his security services. Nevertheless, Mengistu's prospects for survival looked increasingly poor. This paper examines the status of Marxist belief and practice in Ethiopia, reviews the main features of the existing governmental, economic, and social system, and concludes that little of what Mengistu attempted to create in Ethiopia was likely to outlive his fall from power.

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