Tewodaj Media’s 8th edition of a published biography focuses on Endelkachew Mekonnen, who was Ethiopia’s Prime Minister under Emperor Haile Selassie. The CD that is out for sale currently focuses on the personal and professional life stories of Endelkachew Mekonnen who was a member of the aristocratic Addisge clan that were very influential in the later part of the Ethiopian monarchy.
The Oxford-educated Endelkachew served as Prime Minister from February 28 to July 22, 1974. During this period, the Imperial government was under assault by protesting students and striking workers who demanded investigation of corruption in the highest levels of government, reforms in land tenure, and political reforms.
Endalkachew Mekonnen attempted to address these demands by presenting reforms that began to change the very nature of the Ethiopian monarchy. The Emperor also agreed to some of these proposals, which included the drafting of a new constitution to replace the one adopted in 1955, and having the Prime Minister be responsible to the elected Lower House of Parliament rather than to the Emperor. “If this latter measure were to go into effect, it would result in a real diminution in the power and authority of the Crown”, remarked Edmund J. Keller.
All of these actions were made to restore order and help reestablish the legitimacy of the regime in the eyes of the general population. However, as Keller notes, this would have been difficult even in the best of times. Although he had support amongst the older, well-connected members of the military, younger radical elements in the armed forces began to work against him from the moment he took office.
Some believe this was Endelkachew’s motivation for seeking alliances with moderate military officers with bases of support, such as Alem Zewde Tessema, the commander of the paratrooper battalion, and who became chair of the Armed Forces Coordinated Committee (AFCC) on 23 March. Two days later, Alem Zewde ordered the arrest of 30 radical airmen at the Ethiopian Air Force base at Debre Zeyit.
On 30 April Endelkachew moved to placate his opponents on the left by authorizing the arrest of the former ministers—and his former colleagues—in the Aklilu government for corruption. Despite these efforts, radicalism grew unchecked both in civil society and in the military. Alem Zewde was tainted due to his support for Endelkachew and on 22 June lost control of his own battalion, and fled to Gojjam seeking refuge.
That same month, 12 or 16 members of the AFCC under the leadership of Colonel Atnafu Abate left that body and called for a meeting of representatives from all of the military units in Ethiopia at the headquarters of the Fourth Division, which was convened 28 June. This new committee became what was to be known as the Derg.
Note: In last week’s edition of CAPITAL, Arts and Culture section, we mistakenly published Mekonnen Endalkachew’s biography. We apologize for any confusion that might have been created.