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Tesfaye Gebre Kidan

Tesfaye Gebre Kidan Geletu (c. 1935 – 8 August 2004) was an Ethiopian general who was President of Ethiopia for one week in late May 1991.

Tesfaye Gebre Kidan
President of Ethiopia
In office
21 May 1991 (1991-05-21) – 27 May 1991 (1991-05-27)
Preceded byMengistu Haile Mariam
Succeeded byMeles Zenawi (Acting)
Vice President of Ethiopia
In office
26 April 1991 – 21 May 1991
Preceded byFisseha Desta
Succeeded byPost abolished
Personal details
Bornc. 1935
Shewa, Ethiopian Empire
Died8 August 2004(2004-08-08) (aged 68–69)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Prior to joining the Holetta Military Academy,Tesfaye took a one year teacher training course to become an elementary school teacher. After completing his training, he was assigned to Gamo Gofa province. Because of less pay and bad living condition, he left his teaching job to join the Holetta Military Academy. At the academy 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 was appointed as Vice President and minister of defense of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in April 1991[2]. He became acting president on 21 May 1991 when Mengistu fled as Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) forces closed in on the capital.[3]

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.[4] "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.[5] The General remained a virtual prisoner in the Embassy. At the embassy he had a stroke and needed a wheelchair as a result. He constantly clashed with his colleague (and former Foreign Minister) Berhanu Bayeh by constantly accusing him of being an enemy sympathizer (because Berhanu's wife was of Eritrean origin). During a physical brawl with Berhanu, Tesfaye was accidentally hurt on his head from a glass cut and bled profusely. On 8 August 2004, he was taken to Menelik II Hospital where he was pronounced dead.[6] Berhanu Bayeh had accompanied him into the Embassy 13 years earlier.[7]


  1. ^ Gebru Tareke, The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa (New Haven: Yale University, 2009), p. 140
  2. ^ Lentz, Harris M. (2014-02-04). Heads of States and Governments Since 1945. ISBN 9781134264971.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Lentz, Harris M. (2014-02-04). Heads of States and Governments Since 1945. Routledge. ISBN 9781134264971.
  5. ^ "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)
  6. ^ Biles, Peter (2005-12-28). "Languishing in an Addis embassy". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  7. ^ 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