An Interview with Ethiopia's Minister of Genocide
By Doug McGill
The McGill Report
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA -- I finally went man-to-man with Ethiopia’s
Minister of Genocide.
me with a serious nod in his Addis Ababa office and offered
me an orange Fanta. He was eager to tell the world his
side of the
story, he said. He was fed up with the reports
coming from the United Nations
and from humanitarian groups about widespread
ethnic cleansing of the Anuak people of western Ethiopia. He
wanted to set the record
After the interview he drove me to my hotel, then invited me for
a beer at a local restaurant where we spoke for another hour.
grim-faced young men carrying AK-47 assault rifles, stood watch
nearby as we chatted into the Ethiopian night.
I couldn’t stop him from talking.
“If I died
tomorrow, I would die with a clear conscience,” he said. “I
have made mistakes. I am not a perfect man. But I know that I have always
done my best in life.”
Some Anuak relief groups have named Barnabas Gebre-Ab, Ethiopia’s
Minister of Federal Affairs for the State of Gambella, in western
Ethiopia, as the highest-ranking of three officials responsible for
killing of more than 1,200 Anuak in the past three months in Gambella.
Last December 13, more than 400 Anuak were killed in a single
day in the town of Gambella, the capital of the state of
Gambella. Eyewitnesses say
the Ethiopian army has since conducted scorched-earth raids
against many Anuak villages killing men, women, and children.
Some 2,000 Anuak immigrants live in southern Minnesota
come over the past decade fleeing earlier episodes
of ethnic cleansing. The newest violence in Gambella
means that more Anuak refugees will
ultimately emigrate from Africa to live in Minnesota.
No group has definitively linked Gebre-Ab to the killings.
Yet he is the Ethiopian government official with direct
responsibility for day-to-day
government and military operations in Gambella state
killings have occurred. He is the civilian chief of the
Ethiopian military force
that is posted in Gambella. And at least one source,
the former governor of Gambella, says he heard Gebre-Ab
to the top Ethiopian
military commander to use violent force against the Anuak.
In a column I wrote the day before I met Gebre-Ab,
I predicted that he would be more Adolph Eichmann
than Adolph Hitler.
I expected to
a bland functionary who saw himself as “just carrying out orders,” as
opposed to a zealot who justified atrocities by appealing
to a greater cause.
Boy, was I wrong. Gebre-Ab is a zealot but not
a fascist one. He is a Communist one.
In our revolutionary days we read one model after another – Mao Tse-tung,
Sun Yat-sen, Castro, and especially Lenin,” he
told me over beers.
Like many top Ethiopian government figures, Gebre-Ab
fought as a revolutionary for more than a decade
to topple the
regime known as the
Dergue. Gebre-Ab was a medic in the revolutionary
militia, hiding out for years until the Dergue
was finally overthrown
After the revolution, Gebre-Ab earned a doctorate
degree in England before returning to
Ethiopia to accept a
government post. His
has a light British accent, plus vocabulary
words taken straight from Das Kapital.
He spoke frequently
of Ethiopia’s “lumpens,” or
criminal class, borrowing the Marxist term made famous in the phrase “lumpen
During my trip to Ethiopia, I asked people
many times “Why would
the government of this country want to wipe out the Anuak tribe?” There
are several possible answers. One is that Gambella state, the Anuak’s
ancestral homeland, is geographically remote
but is agriculturally fertile and contains
gold and oil
This makes it attractive
development and population resettlement programs
by the central government.
The Anuak have consistently pushed
for a greater degree of self-rule
tensions. In addition,
the black-skinned Anuak people have
historically been persecuted by
who in the past have even raided
Gambella to abduct slaves.
To these reasons I would add a third,
which is that strong ideologies,
in particular utopian
ones like Communism,
often breed atrocities.
The vision of an ideal society
shines so brightly that any
amount of brutality
is justified as
a means to that
a zealot might thus
justify wiping out an entire
Anuak village including women and children,
kill one or two Anuak
resistance fighters the
village was harboring.
The tragedy of My Lai, and
now proof that American soldiers
Iraqi prisoners in
the torture dungeons
shows that Americans
have no monopoly on virtue
in this area.
As we finished our beers,
Gebre-Ab described how
he had hungrily
read through all
the great works
me that he and his fellow
revolutionaries are now
discovering that revolution
work as a principle of governance.
It’s been thirteen years since the Dergue was overthrown. Today,
rather than fostering democracy, the Ethiopian government is adopting the
Dergue’s own former methods
to keep power and maintain domestic
Its future therefore
belongs not as a member
democracies, but in
an international court
Copyright @ 2004 The