To Free Ourselves From Backwardness

Iron-willed and icy, Mengistu Haile Mariam defends his policies

At times this austere leader, the son of an army sergeant, seemed to be trying to enfold himself in the mythic, superhuman image of past Ethiopian emperors. Dressed in a simple royal blue tunic, Mengistu Haile Mariam received TIME Chief of Correspondents Henry Muller and Nairobi Bureau Chief James Wilde at the headquarters of the ruling Workers' Party of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. The occasion: a rare interview with a U.S. publication. Mengistu sat at the head of a long U-shaped table in a sparse conference room decorated with portraits of Marx and Lenin and other revolutionary trappings. Throughout the four-hour...

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