Atnafu AbateThis photograph of Lt Colonel Atnafu Abate, second in command to Mengistu Haile Hariam is dated September 1975.

It carries this caption: “Atnafu: Ethiopia: Lt Col Atnafu Abate. Second Vice-Chairman of the Ethiopian Provisional Military Administrative Council, PMAC”

But behind it is a story of intrigue and bloodshed.

An Oromo, he was one of the military who overthrew the Emperor, Haile Selassie on 12 September 1974.

Wikipedia carries a long entry detailing his difficult relations with the Chairman of PMAC, Mengistu Haile Mariam and of their falling out. Finally he was killed, like so many of his compatriots.

The New York Times of Nov. 15 1977 carried a report of his execution.

“The Ethiopian press agency, which made the announcement, also released what amounted to a six-page indictment listing “twelve specific anti-revolutionary crimes,” and “five specific arch-reactionary stands” attributed to Colonel Atnafu, who had served as vice chairman of the provisional military administrative council.

The statement charged Colonel Atnafu with opposing “proclamations intensifying the revolution,” manifesting “a feudal arrogance while on visits to various provinces,” and consorting after working hours with what the statement called riff-raff of the aristocracy and military bourgeois, as well as “extremely dangerous imperialist agents — especially CIA agents.”

The statement also charged that “he had repeatedly confessed at meetings that he did not believe in the ideology of the working class.”

But perhaps the section of the statement that most accurately reflects the bewildering tone of political rhetoric and chaos in Addis Ababa, was one that charged that the proof of Colonel Atnafu’s “reactionary stands” was his placing of Ethiopian national interests before ideological considerations.

“At this time,” said the document, “when workers, farmers, the men in uniform and all the toiling masses are intensifying the revolutionary struggle guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism, Lieut. Col. Atnafu has been antagonistic to the idea and has instead by way of dilatory tactic, argued that the interest of Ethiopia should be put before ideology.”