By Neamin Zeleke
Sources inside the regime of Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia have disclosed that a secret military court has passed death sentences on four air force pilots who sought political asylum in 2006 while on a training mission in Israel.
According to the sources, a TPLF-appointed court at the Air Force has passed a “guilty” verdict and a death sentence in absentia on Capt. Samuel Getachew, Lt. Himanot Gebre Mariam, Lt. Fikresleasie Feleke, and Lt. Yitabrek Takele.
The TPLF regime’s military is currently plagued with a series of defections. During the past few years, senior officers, including generals and colonels, as well as scores of junior officers and privates have defected to other countries seeking asylum.
It is also to be recalled that a few weeks following the May 2005 fraudulent elections, Lt. Behailu Gebre and Lt. Abiyot Manguday fled to Djibouti flying a military helicopter.
Ethiopians around the world made a vigorous effort to rescue those officers from being handed over to Meles Zenawi’s regime while they remained in Djibouti. Reversing the initial promise it gave to provide them with protection, the Government of President Omar Gulleh sent them back to Ethiopia, to certain torture and death, in flagrant violation of international conventions and protocols that accord protection for political refugees.
After their forcible return to Ethiopia, Lts. Behailu and Abiyot have disappeared without a trace. It’s believed that they have been executed.
Other Air force pilots who fled the country, including veterans such as Captain Teshome Tenkolu and eight pilots who were on a training mission in Belarus, have managed to resettle in European countries where they are protected and far away from the sad and cruel fate befallen Lts. Behilu and Abiyot.
Withing the past year, General Alemshet Degefe, head of the Air force, and his deputies were summarily dismissed after a fall out with officials of the ruling party, TPLF, and replaced with party loyalists from Tigray region, including, General Molla Hailemariam, head of the air force; General Tadesse Worede, head of Military Staff School; General Seyoum Hagos, chief for eastern command; and General Yohannes Gebremeskel, chief of central command. General Samora Yunus, a TPLF Central Committee member, remains Chief of Staff.
The TPLF regime’s military continues to face serious discontent and low morale, in part, due to lack of a merit-based system and professionalism. The crisis facing the military is compounded by the quagmire in Somalia.