World News

Zimbabwe says won't extradite Ethiopia's Mengistu

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe said on Wednesday it was not considering the extradition of former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was found guilty of genocide following a trial in absentia in his homeland.

Mengistu, who has lived in exile in Zimbabwe since he was ousted in 1991, was convicted on Tuesday in a 12-year trial that focused on the killings of thousands of political opponents during his military government’s 17-year rule.

“Mengistu applied for asylum and we granted him ... the position remains the same,” Paul Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s acting information and publicity minister, told Reuters.

“We have no control over the judiciary process in other countries but we are also a sovereign state and as I am talking now that position we made has not changed,” Mangwana said.

President Robert Mugabe’s government, which regards the former Ethiopian ruler as a friend of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, routinely refuses to discuss Mengistu and has largely shielded him from the media.

When asked whether Zimbabwe could change its position if requested to extradite Mengistu, Mangwana said: “If there are any other changes it will be announced, but as of now he remains our guest and we will continue to accommodate him.”

Zimbabwe’s main opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change, said Mengistu’s stay in the southern African nation should be ended. It noted that many Zimbabweans were unaware the former Ethiopian leader was living in their midst.

Once dubbed the “Butcher of Addis”, Mengistu, along with his family, lives in a government villa in Harare’s plush Gunhill district, surrounded by a high security wall and guarded around the clock by an army and police unit.

Little is known about his life in Harare. On the rare occasions when Mengistu has been seen in public, he has been seen wearing military boots and carrying a pistol.

Security for Mengistu, whose rule was marked by war, famine and bloody purges, was increased in the mid-1990s after a failed assassination attempt by two Eritreans who ambushed him during a stroll.