General Andom: the Eritrean who tried to make peace for Ethiopia’s military regime

General AndomGeneral Aman Mikael Andom – army officer and Ethiopian head of state in 1974 – was born in Eritrea.

He attempted to make peace with the Eritrean Liberation Front, to end the war of independence that had been under way since 1961.

But Mengistu Haile Hariam and the military council that then ruled Ethiopia (the Derg) refused to allow any such deal, believing the Eritreans could be crushed.

General Andom paid with his life.

Below is the Wikipedia biography of the General.


 

Aman Mikael Andom (Amharic: አማን ሚካኤል አንዶም, 21 June 1924 – 23 November 1974) was the first post-imperial acting Head of State of Ethiopia. He was appointed to this position following the coup d’état that ousted Emperor Haile Selassie on 12 September 1974, and served until his death in a shootout with his former supporters.

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Early life

Aman was born in Khartoum, Sudan to parents Ato Andom Michael and Woizero Ghidey Reda. He was of Eritrean origin, hailing from the village of Tsazega in Hamassien province of Eritrea.[1] He had four other siblings.

Military career

As commander of the Third Division, General Aman had been beating back the encroachments of the Somali army on the eastern border with such zeal and success that he was known as the “Desert Lion”. However, in 1964 the Emperor dismissed Aman when he began to attack into Somalia in violation of an order from the Emperor, and Aman afterwards served in the Ethiopian Senate in a “political exile“.[citation needed]

Head of State

Aman’s official title was Chairman of the Provisional Military Administrative Council (better known as the Derg), and he held the position of Head of State in an acting capacity as the military regime had officially proclaimed Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen as “King-designate” (an act that would later be rescinded by the Derg, and which was never accepted by the Prince as legitimate).[citation needed]

There is some evidence that indicates he had contacts with the officers of the junta as early as February and March 1974, but by July he was appointed chief of staff to the military junta. Three days after the junta removed the Emperor from his palace to imprisonment at the headquarters of the Fourth Division, this group appointed him their chairman and president of Ethiopia. At the same time, this group of soldiers assumed the name “Provisional Military Administrative Council“, better known as the Derg.[2]

From the first day of his presidency, the Ottaways note, “the general found himself at odds with a majority of the Derg’s members over most major issues, including whether he was ‘chairman’ of the ruling military body or simply its ‘spokesman.'”[3] Aman fought the majority of the Derg over three central issues: the size of the Derg, which he felt was too large and unwieldy; the policy to be taken towards the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF); and over the punishment of the numerous aristocrats and former government officials in the Derg’s custody. His refusal to sanction the execution of former high officials, including two former prime ministers and several royal family members and relatives, put his relations with the majority of the Derg on an especially bitter footing.[citation needed]

As an Eritrean, General Aman found himself fiercely at odds with the majority of the Derg. He wanted to negotiate a peaceful settlement; his opponents hoped to crush the ELF by military force. Aman went as far as making two personal visits to Eritrea—the first 25 August to 6 September, the second in November—giving speeches stating that the end of the Imperial regime was also the end of old practices towards Eritrea, that a government dedicated to national unity and progress would restore peace and prosperity to Eritrea, and lastly that he would begin investigations concerning crimes that the army had perpetrated on Eritreans and punish the guilty.[4]

However, at the same time the Derg had begun the task of eliminating opponents within the military. The three significant units were the Imperial Bodyguard, the Air Force, and the Corp of Engineers; of the three, the most recalcitrant were the Engineers. So on 7 October soldiers loyal to the Derg stormed the Engineers’ camp, killing five, wounding several and detaining the rest. As Bahru Zewde observes, “With that, the illusion that the revolution would remain bloodless was exploded.”[5]

General Aman responded with a personal campaign to seek support outside the Derg, among the rest of the army and the country where he was popular. On 15 November he sent a message to all military units that was highly critical of the Derg. During a general assembly of the Derg two days later, Mengistu Haile Mariam demanded that 5,000 men be dispatched to Eritrea and six imprisoned Imperial officials be executed; Aman Andom refused, resigned his official posts and retired to his house where he secretly sent appeals to his supporters, especially those in the Third Division. But Mengistu managed to intercept these appeals.[6]

General Aman died in a battle with troops sent to his home to arrest him. The actual cause of his death remains unclear, whether he was killed or committed suicide. That same night, the political prisoners that the Derg had marked for execution were taken from Menelik prison, where they had been held, to the Akaki Central Prison where they were executed and buried in a mass grave.[7] “It appears that the general had outlived his usefulness,” Bahru Zewde concludes, “and was in fact becoming an obstacle to the Derg’s exercise of power.”[8]

Notes

 

Zewde (2001), p. 238

 

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