|Was|| Politician |
|Type|| Military |
|Birth||21 June 1924, Tsazega, Eritrea|
|Death|| 23 November 1974, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|
(aged 50 years)
Aman Mikael Andom (Tigrinya: ኣማን ሚካኤል ዓንዶም; 21 June 1924 – 23 November 1974) was an Eritrean general and the first post-imperial acting head of state of Ethiopia. He was appointed to this position following the coup d’état that ousted Emperor Haile Selassie on 12 September 1974, and served until his death in a shootout with his former supporters.
Aman was an Eritrean born in the village of Tsazega in Hamassien province of Eritrea. His mother was from Tigray northern region of current Ethiopia according to an interview of his younger sister Tsion Andom given to EBS TV. He had four other siblings.
As commander of the Third Division, General Aman had been beating back the encroachments of the Somali army on the eastern border with such zeal and success that he was known as the “Desert Lion”. However, in 1964 the Emperor dismissed Aman when he began to attack into Somalia in violation of an order from the Emperor, and Aman afterwards served in the Ethiopian Senate in a political exile.
Head of State
Aman’s official title was Chairman of the Provisional Military Administrative Council (better known as Derg), and he held the position of Head of State in an acting capacity as the military regime had officially proclaimed Crown Prince Asfaw Wossen as “King-designate” (an act that would later be rescinded by the Derg, and which was never accepted by the Prince as legitimate).
There is some evidence that indicates he had contacts with the officers of the junta as early as February and March 1974, but by July he was appointed chief of staff to the military junta. Three days after the junta removed the Emperor from his palace to imprisonment at the headquarters of the Fourth Division, this group appointed him their chairman and president of Ethiopia. At the same time, this group of soldiers assumed the name “Provisional Military Administrative Council” (Derg).
From the first day of his presidency, the Ottaways note, “the general found himself at odds with a majority of the Derg’s members over most major issues, including whether he was chairman of the ruling military body or simply its spokesman. Aman fought the majority of the Derg over three central issues: the size of Derg, which he felt was too large and unwieldy; the policy to be taken towards the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF); and over the punishment of the numerous aristocrats and former government officials in Derg’s custody. His refusal to sanction the execution of former high officials, including two former prime ministers and several royal family members and relatives, put his relations with the majority of Derg on an especially bitter footing.
As an Eritrean, General Aman found himself fiercely at odds with the majority of Derg. He wanted to negotiate a peaceful settlement; his opponents hoped to crush the ELF by military force. Aman went as far as making two personal visits to Eritrea—the first 25 August to 6 September, the second in November—giving speeches stating that the end of the Imperial regime was also the end of old practices towards Eritrea, that a government dedicated to national unity and progress would restore peace and prosperity to Eritrea, and lastly that he would begin investigations concerning crimes that the army had perpetrated on Eritreans and punish the guilty.
However, at the same time Derg had begun the task of eliminating opponents within the military. The three significant units were the Imperial Bodyguard, the Air Force, and the Corps of Engineers; of the three, the most recalcitrant were the Engineers. So on 7 October soldiers loyal to the Derg stormed the engineers’ camp, killing five, wounding several and detaining the rest. As Bahru Zewde observation he said that, “With that, the illusion that the revolution would remain bloodless was exploded.”
General Aman responded with a personal campaign to seek support outside Derg, among the rest of the army and the country where he was popular. On 15 November, he sent a message to all military units that was highly critical of Derg. During a general assembly of Derg two days later, Mengistu Haile Mariam demanded that 5,000 men be dispatched to Eritrea and six imprisoned Imperial officials be executed; Aman Andom refused, resigned his official posts and retired to his house where he secretly sent appeals to his supporters, especially those in the Third Division. But Mengistu Haile Mariam managed to intercept these appeals.
General Aman died in a battle with troops sent to his home to arrest him. The actual cause of his death remains unclear, whether he was killed or committed suicide. That same night, the political prisoners that Derg had marked for execution were taken from Menelik prison, where they had been held, to the Akaki Central Prison where they were executed and buried in a mass grave. “It appears that the general had outlived his usefulness,” Bahru Zewde concludes, and was in fact becoming an obstacle to Derg’s exercise of power.