A 17-year nightmare in Ethiopia has ended with the flight of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam and the collapse of the dergue, or revolutionary council, and Workers Party dictatorship.
The officers who overthrew the feudalism of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 promised enlightened socialism. They brought terror, war, famine, pestilence, suspicion and fear. Victims included some 60 high officials murdered in 1974, the later Red Terror executions of 10,000 intellectuals, and perhaps one million dead of starvation. Instead of coming to terms with the secessionist movements that the monarchy had provoked, the dergue drove more Ethiopians into rebellion.
The dictator survives the wreckage, thanks to the timely intercession of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who organized a quiet exile there. But the rest of the dictatorship was left trying to hold a ring around the capital of Addis Ababa in the face of advancing tanks of the Tigre People's Liberation Front, at least until U.S.-sponsored peace talks could begin in London on Monday. At stake is the public health in Addis Ababa, not the regime, which is finished.