Historic article by Time magazine showing that Ethiopian dictators had always a one way solution – Famine as a weapon of oppression –

P3 – Why, after two short years, do hundreds of thousands, even millions, again face starvation? While Western experts primarily blame the lack of rain, many place much of the responsibility on the shoulders of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose rigid and secretive Communist regime has done little to avert another tragedy. Not only does the Addis Ababa government seem more concerned with putting down various insurgencies than with feeding the hungry, but it has also continued policies that seem designed to aggravate rather than resolve problems of poverty.
Those policies include a population-resettlement program, the opening of Soviet-style collective farms and a “villagization” effort that moves farmers off their isolated homesteads and into government-built settlements. The collective farms are such a doctrinaire Stalinist scheme that even the Soviet Union has urged officials in Addis Ababa to scale back their ambitious plans.
Geldof, who received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his Band Aid efforts, was back in Ethiopia last week, and his indictment of Mengistu’s role in the new famine was harsh and to the point: “I would say that the cardinal responsibility of any government is to feed its own people, and any government refusing to do that is irresponsible.”

In 1984 hundreds of thousands had already starved to death before the government admitted to a famine. And Mengistu, a former army major with a tendency toward the grandiose, was widely denounced for spending an estimated $100 million to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the revolution that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie. There are signs he may be curbing his spendthrift ways: in September, when the country was renamed the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mengistu opted for a cocktail party instead of a banquet.

Like much of Africa, Ethiopia has always been subject to ecological disaster. Droughts and famines were reported as early as 253 B.C. In the great drought of 1888, a third of the population is said to have died from malnourishment and disease. This latest calamity is part of a 30-year pattern that has seen the rains repeatedly fail along the Sahel, the wide swath of land that cuts Africa in half just below the Sahara. After the 1984-85 drought, which killed an estimated 2 million people in Africa, there was a brief period of uncommon optimism in Addis Ababa. In 1985 and 1986 the rains were good for the first time since 1981. Though hunger persisted, no one was starving. When the rains came on schedule last June, it looked as if the nation would have a third year of good luck. But July was bone dry — not a drop of water the entire month. Stubbornly hopeful, farmers replanted. In August the rain sputtered, then, late in the month, stopped. The crops withered and died.

Worst hit was the far northern province of Eritrea along the Red Sea, where the crop failure exceeded 80%. More than 40% of the harvest was lost in Tigre, 44% in Wollo and 35% in Harar, the Ogaden desert region that juts into Somalia. Altogether, nine of Ethiopia’s 14 provinces are suffering food shortages.


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