Italy welcomes end to 30-year Ethiopian embassy refuge
ROME, Dec 28, 2020 (BSS /AFP) – Italy on Monday welcomed Ethiopia’s decision to allow free two former officials of ex-president Mengistu Haile Mariam’s regime who had spent nearly three decades in asylum in Rome’s embassy in Addis Ababa.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a statement the decision “put an end to the long affair”.
The two men — former chief of staff Addis Tedla and former foreign minister Berhanu Bayhe — were granted refuge in the embassy in 1991 for humanitarian reasons.
They were among several dignitaries from Mengistu’s repressive regime who took refuge there after the capture of Addis Ababa by forces of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
One of them, former prime minister Haile Yemanu, committed suicide in June 1991 inside the embassy, apparently fearing conviction for his involvement in Mengistu’s regime.
Another one died inside the embassy in 2004.
Mengistu was in power from 1974 to 1991, until the Ethiopian army’s defeat to the EPRDF forced him to flee to Zimbabwe, where he remains to this day, now aged 84.
He was sentenced for genocide in absentia to life imprisonment and then, on appeal, to death on May 26, 2008. His regime is estimated to have killed 1.2 to two million Ethiopians.