An Amhara, Almayahu was a graduate of the Dina Police College in Addis Ababa and of Haile Selassie University (now Addis Ababa University); his education leads the Ottaways to suspect that this was a factor in his feud with Mengistu Haile Mariam. They comment that he "was certainly no moderate and as remembered by his university professors as a very articulate, argumentative student who believed in radical policies as the only means to bring even moderate change to a feudal country such as Ethiopia." At the time of the Ethiopian Revolution, Almayahu was a member of the Ethiopian police force.
He was a key member of the Derg, and was chairman of the committee for administrative affairs. After the reorganization of the Derg announced 29 December 1976, Almayahu became its Secretary-General, "a post with such ill-defined limits that it could confer vast powers." In short, Almayahu Haile appeared at this point to be the most powerful member of the Derg, more powerful than his rival Mengistu.
However according to LaFort, Almayahu made a critical mistake by underestimating or even despising him; "it was out of the question that he would passively accept his personal elimination and the defeat of his views." And the events of 3 February 1977 put Mengistu back in control. At a meeting between Mengistu and his opponents, who included not only Almayahu Haile but chairman General Tafari Benti and a number of leading members of the Derg, gunfire erupted leaving both Almayahu and General Tafari, as well as six other leaders of the Derg dead. Mengistu afterwards broadcast on Radio Ethiopia that Almayahu and his dead compatriots had attempted a "fascist coup d'etat in the capital identical to what had taken place in Chile", and labeling them "fifth columnists" of the Ethiopian Democratic Union and Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party rebel groups.
- Marina and David Ottaway, Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution (New York: Africana, 1978), p. 136
- Ottaways, Empire in Revolution, p. 206 n. 10
- Rene LaFort, Ethiopia: An Heretical Revolution? translated by A.M. Berrett (London: Zed Press, 1983), p. 194
- LaFort, Heretical Revolution?, pp. 196f
- Ottaway, Empire in Revolution, pp. 142f
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