Merid Negussie (Major General) : 1934-1989 Major General Merid Negussie was born on January 21, 1934 in the small village of Leku in the then-Mulo sub district, Sululta district of Shoa province. Until he left the rural village of his birth to pursue modern education, he spent his childhood helping his family by herding cattle, taming horses and partaking in farming chores. General Merid attended elementary school in Wolliso town and at Beyene Merid elementary in Addis Ababa. He continued his secondary school education in the capital where he attended Kokebe Tsibah Haile Selassie I school. The young Merid became a cadet at the Imperial bodyguard academy graduating in 1946 with the rank of Second lieutenant after three years of training. Upon graduation, the young officer married Woizero Aselefech Hailemariam with whom he enjoyed long years of marital bliss. His distinguished career that started with the Imperial bodyguard in 1956 continued for 37 years during which he served his country in different capacities that included the highest echelons of military and civilian leadership. At the beginning of his military career, he served as a platoon commander in the imperial bodyguard. As part of the Ethiopian contingent of United Nations Operation in the Congo, he served as a deputy operation officer. While he was deployed in the Congo, an event happened that would have a significant impact on the life and career trajectory of the young officer. In December 1960, the commander of the imperial bodyguard, General Mengistu Neway, enlisted officers of the imperial bodyguard to participate in the unsuccessful plot that he and his brother Germamie organized to depose Emperor Haile Selassie. In the wake of the failed coup d’état, officers of the Imperial bodyguard bore the brunt of retributive measures for their actual and perceived support of and participation in the failed coup. Officers of the imperial bodyguard were imprisoned or exiled. The Imperial Bodyguard, which was an independent and special division of the armed forces, was relegated to a regular division under the command of the ground forces. Since he was deployed overseas serving with Ethiopian contingent in the Congo at the time of the coup attempt, General Merid was spared the harshest punishment that officers of his rank were dealt but did not go scot- free as his transfer to the northern province of Eritrea was construed as a punitive measure. Upon completion of his service in Eritrea, General Merid attended Airborne and Special Commando Training at Debre Zeit. After completing his training, he became commander of the Fiche military training camp. While serving as a commander at Fiche, he was admitted to the Staff and Command College in Holeta where his academic achievement landed him the job of an instructor. His abilities and accomplishments as an instructor propelled him to the position of administrator of the prestigious college. Following his service at Holeta, he became training officer of the Fourth division of the army in Addis Ababa. Subsequently, he served as Operation Officer of the command post in Bale province and Commander of the 28th infantry Battalion in Negelle Borena where he played a prominent role in coordinating and leading the 1974 revolt of the army. In 1974, he was transferred to Addis Ababa and given the post of Operation Officer of the Fourth infantry division of the army. It was while he was serving in this capacity that the committee (Dergue) which would later become Provisional Military Administrative Council was formed and the then Lieutenant Colonel went on to serve double duty as executive officer of the Dergue from 1974 to 1977. In the mid-seventies, the Ethiopian armed forces were fighting on two fronts; to repel the Somali invasion and curb the advance of secessionist movements of EPLF & ELF. To reinforce the fighting force, the then- Colonel Merid rapidly trained the Seventh division of the army and led the battle-ready division on its campaign in Eritrea during which he was injured in combat. After treatment for his wound, he was promoted to the position of commander of the Northern Command. As a recognition of his heroic exploits on the battlefields in Eritrea and his exceptional leadership, he became the first officer to ascend to the rank of Brigadier General under the Dergue regime and was awarded the Medal for Valor. He later rose to the position of Chief of the General Staff of Ethiopian Armed Forces, in which capacity, he led “Operation Lash” that swept remnants of the invading Somali army from Ethiopian soil. An incident inside the Ministry of Defense headquarters culminated in General Merid’s forced retirement from military service. Reinstated as a high-ranking civilian official, he served as administrator of Harerghe and Eritrea administrative regions consecutively. His service as administrator of Eritrea was notable in many ways. In addition to being the chief executive of the region, he was assigned as commander of the Second Revolutionary Army. During his service in Eritrea, he worked tirelessly to bring about peace and improve the livelihood of the people of this restive region through good governance and dialog with community leaders and elders. However, his efforts were frustrated by the persistent objection of officials in highest ranks of the military government. After a total of over four years of service in Eritrea, General Merid returned to Addis Ababa and assumed his former position of Chief of the General staff of the Armed Forces. Gravely concerned about the misguided policies Colonel Mengistu espoused and the precipice that it has led the country to, General Merid started voicing his opposition. As his concerns and that of other like-minded military leaders were ignored and their suggestions to ameliorate the situation went unheeded, the rift between Mengistu and his cohorts and reform-minded military leaders widened. At the same time, the country’s problems exacerbated. Seeing no avenue to address differences amiably, General Merid, and other leaders of the armed forces started planning the removal of Mengistu from power. The responsibility of leading this perilous undertaking fell on General Merid, a proven leader who never shied away from seemingly insurmountable challenges that are fraught with substantial risks including paying the ultimate sacrifice. The planned removal of Mengistu from power did not go as planned. As forces loyal to Mengistu gained the upper hand, the seasoned leader and proud soldier chose dignity over surrender. Wrapping himself with the flag of the country that he so loved and gallantly served, General Merid brought an end to a life lived in the service of the people of Ethiopia. Major General Merid was a humble leader and a person endowed with a gift of love and respect to all. A doting father, he lavished unyielding love upon his children ceaselessly. Major General Merid Negussie is survived by five daughters, four sons and seventeen grandchildren whom he strived to imbue with the values of love of country and respect to its citizens.
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