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A meeting was taking place inside the offices of Ethiopian Derg Chairman, Mengistu Haile-Mariam. It was between Mengistu and Chairman of then exile opposition Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), Abdullahi Yusuf. With Yusuf’s delegation included SSDF Executive Council member, Abdirahman Aydid Dhabdhable, hailing from the left wing of the organization. Present in the meeting were Mengistu ministers of defence and public security departments. In mid meeting and suddenly, Aydid addressed Mengistu directly by saying, “Comrade Chairman, your ministers of defence and security are sabotaging both us and your government” It was a shock to all present. The meeting was adjourned immediately that day.

When Mengistu tried to interfere in the internal affairs of SSDF, Mr. Yusuf told Mengistu bluntly that “Ethiopian Derg has nothing to do with a Somali organization”.

When Dr Hassan Ali Mire (PhD), then Acting Chairman of SSDF, paid a lecture visit to Addis Ababa University in 1987 during the Derg rule, with Mengistu security and secret services all over the place, Dr Hassan lectured the students and professors present that “Today’s African Head of State is a tomorrow’s African refugee”, to a wild laughter and applauses from the lecture hall.

When Mengistu Haile-Mariam was proclaiming the formation of People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia after the Derg had consolidated its military dictatorship in 1983 in Ethiopia on a televised broadcast, a Somali Western Ogaden intellectual, Hassan Gurhan, who had defected from Siyad Barre Regime then, said loudly in a bar full of Mengistu spies watching the TV, “We had seen that theater before in Mogadishu”. There was shock and silence in the bar.

Each of these episodes had its inherent risk realized – Abdullahi Yusuf went to Mengistu jail for six years in October 1985, Abdirahman Aydid was assassinated in 1984 together with his companion and fellow comrade, Igar Mohamed Haji Hussen, while Mohamed Amin, the late famous Somali singer, composer and artist was slightly wounded in the same spot in DereDawa. Hassan Gurhan was briefly detained in 1983 and Dr Hassan Ali Mire had barely escaped to Nairobi in 1988.

The moral lesson of this story is that each of us should resist a dictator before he becomes too strong.

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