Wikileaks, which has bee shaking the global security, diplomatic and economic establishments, by acquiring and publicly releasing highly secretive US cables, have recently released a new batch containing 1,707,500 diplomatic documents from 1973 to 1976. Among these documents found seven files containing information that shows what US diplomatic and intelligence services knew about General Tasesse Birru’s effort to launch armed struggle during this period. Although documents from earlier years are yet to be released, there are signs that the US government has been following the ‘storied’ General with keen interest since his early days. Aside shading more light on the last years of this founding father of the Oromo movement, the files also tells us quite a bit about how the US government perceived the movement at the time. Fon innstance, the judged that the “capture of Gen. Tadesse is sharp setback to Oromo dissidents, as other potential Oromo leaders of his stature few and far between“. Set back , it was. But the movement bounced back because the cold blooded murder of Tadesse produced thousands of gallant fighters who picked arms, propelling the movement forward.
PROVINCIAL DISTURBANCES CONTINUE
1974 April 3,
While nature of local government varies in different areas, common theme running complaints now being voiced seems to be one of long-standing government irresponsibility and exploitation by local officials or urban and rural inhabitants particularly if they non-shoan amhara. (report on local government structure and politics prepared in February ’74 by John Cohen for aid/w is most comprehensive analysis available.) Demands for removal government officials primarily generated by and confined to town dwellers. As far as we aware, movement has not yet catalyzed traditionally submissive rural peasantry. Recent “Oromo uprising” over land ownership issues has remained centered on rift valley lake area (Addis 3037). There are indications, however, that Oromo sub-groups attempting organize autonomy movements. We note that Gen. Tadesse Biru, leader of 1966 “Oromo revolt”, escaped house arrest last month. Gall politicians also hinting to us that some type plans under preparation.
REPORTING ON INTERNAL ETHIOPIAN SITUATION
1974 April 9,
We would appreciate additional reporting on ethnic, regional and religious cleavages within the military, particularly regarding the Oromos and the Tigrean- Eritrean majority within the air force. How close is the relationship of air force and student Tigreans and Eritreans? Is Endalkatchew viewed as anti-Eritrean? Would Zawde be more acceptable to Eritreans and Tigreans? What is the attitude of Tigrean-eritrean military elements toward elf? What more is known about Tadesse Biru’s escape?
FRAGMENTS FROM THE COUNTRYSIDE
1975 March 5
Ethiopian Herald reported that Major Abebe Gebre Marian and Lt. Col. Hailu Regassa, vice chairman of the general court martial, have fled with eth$80,000 proceeds from sale of Ethiopian Tikdem buttons. Various independent sources report that both officers, who are Oromo staff members on “dirg,” have taken money and large store of weapons from Holleta military academy and joined General Tadesse Biru’s dissident group near Ginche in northern Shoa.
1975 March 10,
Usually reliable diplomatic source reports three recent raids by Oromo dissidents loyal to Oromo leader Tadesse Biru. The first occurred in Ginche near Ambo (see para 12 reftel), the second near Fitche on the Gondar road and the third was a theft of dynamite and exploding caps from a quarry near Debre Berhan. 2. Diplomatic source and well-informed Afar leader both report destruction of highway bridge at Mahal Meda in menz. Bridge was reportedly blown by dissident sons of Ras Biru. 3. Both sources report that biru brothers have joined Dej. Berhane Meskal wolde-selassie (who is married to the niece of Asrate Kassa). The afar source believes Berhane is now in lasta (wollo province) and is gathering a sizeable force. Diplomatic source understands that Berhane Meskal’s Amhara group may be preparing to link with those supporting Tadesse Biru in opposing the PMAC.
ARREST OF OROMO INSURGENT LEADERS
March 14, 1975
Ethiopian media march 13 and 14 prominently feature arrest of B/G Tadesse Biru and Lt. Col. Hailu Regassa with clutch of their “accomplices.” men, taken by security forces “in cooperation with the public”, are accused of opposing “Ethiopian Popular Movement” and attempting to incite rebellion. According media, they are to be charged before special general court martial today (March 14). Prisoners (pictures displayed on tv and in press)
Media report that rebels were taken in village of Curo Mako in Meta Robi district, Menegesha, Shoa province, “where they have been hiding for some time.” according government spokesman, B/G Tadesse and Lt. Col. Hailu attempted incite rebellion on “tribal basis” to cover their true motives, which said be opposition to land reform. Deputy administrator of Meta Robi district reportedly was killed during shootout preceding arrest these men.
Comment: department will recall that Tadesse Biru is storied Oromo leader long kept by ex-emperor in custody/house arrest for his rebellious past. Lt. Col. Hailu is highly educated soldier who had been assigned as vice-president of special general court martial now trying former officials. Press explains his dissidence by saying he was large landowner. Press also charges Hailu with theft of eth$80,000 raised for drought relief, together with Maj. Abebe Gebre Mariam, who remains at large. Capture of Gen. Tadesse is sharp setback to Oromo dissidents, as other potential Oromo leaders of his stature few and far between. Conversely, it is quite a feather in EPMG’s cap. We note that EPMG confident enough in appeal its land reform among Oromos to attempt use B/G Tadesse Biru’s putative opposition to it against him.
PMAC TRIES AND EXECUTES REBELS
1975 March 19,
Media march 18-19 report the execution of Hailu Regassa, Tadesse Biru, Alula Bekelle, Rezene Kidane, Meless Tekle and Giday Gebre-wahid late march 18 in Addis Ababa.
2. According press, these men had been tried by a special military court. Latter condemned Hailu Regassa to the capital penalty and the rest to life imprisonment. This verdict was reviewed by PMAC which directed, on the basis of the evidence and the crimes with which these men were charged, that all be executed.
3. Hailu Regassa and Tadesse Biru were found guilty of “attempting to disrupt the Ethiopian popular movement” and to oppose the nationalization of rural land. Department will recall (ref a) that these Oromo leaders were recently captured near ambo.
STUDENT PROBLEMS IN ADDIS ABABA
1975 March 21
Fairly reliable source with access to radical circles told emboff that three Tigres charged with Addis bombings and executed with general Tadesse Biru and Col. Hailu Regassa (addis 3233) were important student leaders, including editor of university publication “struggle.” source believes three were guilty of bombings and were turned in by teacher at Teferi Makonnen school who formerly collaborated with them during early days of revolution. Source also believes that adverse student reaction could well result because of these executions.
NB: For a family account of the revolt led by Gen Tadesse and Col Hailu Regassa, how they were caught and who betrayed them, you can watch these three part interview of Col Hailu’s mother. She repeatedly asserts that the two leaders were betrayed by General Jagama Kello.
The three parts interview is available at Gadaa.com