Tesfaye Gebre Kidan

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Tesfaye Gebre Kidan
President of Ethiopia
In office
21 May 1991 (1991-05-21) – 27 May 1991 (1991-05-27)
Preceded by Mengistu Haile Mariam
Succeeded by Meles Zenawi (Acting)
Personal details
Born c. 1935
Died 2 June 2004(2004-06-02) (aged 68–69)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tesfaye Gebre Kidan (c. 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 Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) forces closed in on the capital, making him acting president.[2]

Tesfaye took over a regime in a state of utter collapse. He only ruled for a week before the EPRDF marched into Addis Ababa and seized power on 27 May 1991.[3] "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.[4] The General remained a virtual prisoner in the Embassy until 2 June 2004, when it is rumored that he was killed when he was hit over the head with a bottle by one of his colleagues.[5] It is believed that the colleague in question was Foreign Minister Birhanu Bayeh, who had accompanied him into the Embassy 13 years earlier.[6]


  1. ^ Gebru Tareke, The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa (New Haven: Yale University, 2009), p. 140
  2. ^ Krauss, Clifford (1991-05-22). "Ethiopia's Dictator Flees; Officials Seeking U.S. Help". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  3. ^ Lentz, Harris M. (2014-02-04). Heads of States and Governments Since 1945. Routledge. ISBN 9781134264971. 
  4. ^ "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)
  5. ^ Biles, Peter (2005-12-28). "Languishing in an Addis embassy". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  6. ^ Hayden, Sally (2015-10-12). "Two Convicted Ethiopian War Criminals Have Been Sheltering in an Italian Embassy for 24 Years". VICE News. Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Mengistu Haile Mariam
President of Ethiopia
Succeeded by
Meles Zenawi