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Ethiopian Red Terror Sociological Review

2017 words - 9 pages

The Ethiopian Red Terror: A Sociological Perspective

The Ethiopian Red Terror took place in the 1970’s after the aristocracy was overthrown. The violent actions were a result of a political power struggle between the Provisional Military Administrative council (Derg), and the Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP). The Derg began mass killings and imprisonments for anyone they deemed to be counter-revolutionary, to which the EPRP responded with their own violence, which escalated to genocide. This case proves individual in its analysis as the violence was between two groups who came from the same political side that could not agree on the democratic rule of the country. The ...view middle of the document...

The Derg and the EPRP began their conflict over how the democracy should be governed. In order to maintain his power, Mengistu instated a ‘shoot to kill’ policy which marks a shifting point in Ethiopian history where hundreds of people who were suspected to be part of the EPRP were killed, tortured and imprisoned (Tegegn 2012, p.253). The instigation of this policy proves a significant point in the analysis of the Terror as it displays that the Derg were willing to do anything in order to maintain power (Tegegn 2012, p.252). The executions that took place were public figures and activists, where reasonings such as ‘reactionary politics’ and ‘sabotaging the revolution’ were made by the Derg (Tegegn 2012, p.252). The escalation of violence continued and the EPRP began a violent campaign as a response. Understanding of the difficult political struggle that ensued at this time is evident, as the autocracy had already been overthrown and the distinction between the remaining parties was blurred, particularly when distinguishing the ‘counter-revolutionaries’ and the ‘revolutionaries’ of the Derg. The pivotal moment in the Red Terror I argue to be due to the need Mengitsu had to maintain power at all costs. Tareke further concurs with this notion as he believes that Mengitsu would do anything to keep his rule over the masses (Tareke 2008, p.259) and argues this to be fundamental in this case, claiming the Red Terror could have been avoided.

Political violence is a key aspect of the escalation of violence that ensued in Ethiopia. One of the defining features in this case is the justifications that both sides provided as a response to the killing, torturing and imprisonment of others. Not only was there a political struggle between the Derg and the EPRP, but as Toggia (2012, p.266) illustrates, there was instability within the Derg as well, fragmenting the party and the political power it attempted to maintain. The progression of violence was able to happen because of the way the perpetrators justified the violence to themselves and to others. Both the Derg and the EPRP stated that they were acting as ‘revolutionary justice’ and that each of their attacks was only a counter attack as self-defense from the other (Toggia 2012, p.272,274). This legitimisation of violence adds to the understanding of the escalation of violence, however it begs the question of when and how does morality step in. In the present case this is not seen, instead, the Derg responded to the political struggle by altering laws and adding new measures to justify executions and imprisonment to aid their position (Toggia 2012, p.269), thus giving further justification for their violence in a judicial manner. Jalata expands on the alteration of the law to allow violence as a tactic that goes against what should be present in a civilised and humane society (Jalata 2012, p.323).

Extending on this concept, the legalisation of inhumane methods as a tactic to maintain power further...

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