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Brigadier General Tafari Benti (1921 - 1977) was the Head of State of Ethiopiamarker (28 November 1974 - 3 February 1977), and chairman of the Derg, the ruling junta. His official title was Chairman of the Provisional Military Administrative Council.

Tafari Benti was born near Addis Ababamarker, and was considered by some of Oromo ancestry -- which he denied. He joined the Ethiopian army at the age of 20, graduated from the Oletta Military Academy, and served in the Second, Third and Fourth Divisions.Marina and David Ottaway, Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution (New York: Africana, 1978), p. 134

On the evening of 23 November 1974, the charismatic Lt. General Aman Mikael Andom, the president of Ethiopia, and who had been in a struggle for power with the other members of the Derg, was killed in a shootout at his home. Mengistu Haile Mariam served as interim president until the Derg appointed Tafari Bente to the position. He had been serving as brigadier general in the Fourth Division, which was stationed in Asmaramarker, at the time of this appointment.

Immediately after his appointment, Tafari Bente changed the spelling of his name slightly to emphasize his Amharic ethnicity. During his tenure, he presented the public face of the ruling junta, delivering the Derg's public announcements, such as the 11 September 1975 announcement that the Derg would create a political party to support their aims, along the lines of the contemporary Soviet Communist Party.

Tafari died by gunfire during a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Derg, either by committing suicide or at Mengistu's orders, along with Captain Almayahu Haile, Captain Mogas Wolde Mikael and Lt. Colonel Asrat Dasta. The Ottaways, writing not long after the incident state, "Precisely how the shoot-out began and which side took the initiative remains a typical Derg mystery" Bahru Zewde, although writing over 20 years later, was physically much closer to the scene and states simply "They were readily picked up and summarily shot." At the time, Radio Ethiopia broadcast a charge by Mengistu that Tafari and his associates had been killed because they were secret supporters of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP). Mengistu claimed he had discovered a 47-page master plan in Tafari's possession, which detailed how the EPRP would replace the "scientific socialism" of the Derg.

The Ottaways comment that while "at first a neutral and powerless figure", in the end "he was too colorless, soft-spoken, and undemonstrative to be the figurehead of the revolution."

Notes

  1. Ottaway, Empire in Revolution, p. 61. However, Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia, second edition (London: James Currey, 1991), states this happened 24 November (p. 238)
  2. Ottaway, Empire in Revolution, p. 131
  3. Ottaway, Empire in Revolution, p. 115
  4. Ottaway, Empire in Revolution, p. 143
  5. Bahru Zewde, A History, p. 253
  6. "And Then There Were Sixty", Time 14 February 1977 (accessed 14 May 2009)



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