Tesfaye Gebre Kidan

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Tesfaye Gebre Kidan (1935? – 2 June 2004) was an Ethiopian general who was President of Ethiopia for one week in late May 1991.

Tesfaye was a student at Holetta Military Academy, where he met Mengistu Haile Mariam; according to Gebru Tareke, along with Legesse Asfaw and Gebreyes Wolde Hana Tesfaye was part of Mengistu's inner circle, his "pals Mengistu knew more intimately in less pressing times, men who played and drank with him and stood by him during the bloody factional days of the Derg."[1] While a colonel, Tesfaye was a member of the Derg, the military committee which seized power from Emperor Haile Selassie, and which would later order the executions of his officials and allegedly the murder of the deposed Emperor himself. He had military successes in Somalia and Eritrea, notably as commander of the forces around Jijiga during the Ogaden War.

Elevated to the rank of Lt. General, Tesfaye Gebre Kidan went on to serve as the longtime Minister of Defence, then on 14 May 1988 was made military governor and general commander in Eritrea. He was recalled to Addis Ababa from Asmara to serve on the military tribunal, which tried the high-ranking officers who had tried to depose President Mengistu in 1989 following the decisive defeat at the Battle of Shire. He became vice-President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia until 21 May 1991, when Mengistu fled as rebel forces closed in on the capital, making him acting president.

Upon assuming power, General Tesfaye Gebre Kidan found his government falling apart as the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front marched into Addis Ababa and seized power on 28 May. "Government troops turned on one another," read one contemporary account. "Soldiers wantonly looted state property." Tesfaye informed the U.S. chargé d'affaires in Addis Ababa that he could no longer control the situation, then after announcing a unilateral cease-fire he fled for the safety of the Italian Embassy.[2] The General remained a virtual prisoner in the Embassy until 2 June 2004, when he was killed in a brawl with his fellow Derg member and former Foreign Minister Birhanu Bayeh, who had accompanied him into the Embassy 13 years earlier[verification needed].


  1. ^ Gebru Tareke, The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa (New Haven: Yale University, 2009), p. 140
  2. ^ "Ethiopia: Rebels Take Charge", Time 10 June 1991 (accessed 14 May 2009). According to Paul B. Henze, Tesfaye had first sought sanctuary at the US embassy, but Ambassador Robert Houdek turned him away. (Layers of Time [New York: Palgrave, 2000], p. 332)
Political offices
Preceded by
Mengistu Haile Mariam
President of Ethiopia
Succeeded by
Meles Zenawi