In This Review

Evil Days: Thirty Years Of War And Famine In Ethiopia
Evil Days: Thirty Years Of War And Famine In Ethiopia
By Alex de Waal
Africa Watch, 1991, 386 pp

When international news coverage brought starvation in Ethiopia to world attention in 1984, the country was experiencing its third major famine in as many decades. Although officially ascribed to drought, these human catastrophes were as much or more the product of counterinsurgency policies applied by Ethiopia's government as it tried with increasing brutality to hold together its disintegrating imperium. This detailed and documented narrative, forcefully presented by Africa Watch's associate director, is not for the faint-hearted. Besides describing manifold human rights abuses experienced by Ethiopian civilians, including hapless conscripts, the book examines the roles played by relief organizations and foreign governments in restraining or abetting the slaughter and starvation. The United Nations Emergency Office for Ethiopia emerges with the least admirable record. Washington gets mixed reviews: complicity in the despotism of Haile Selassie, a more humanitarian and rights-protective stance in the years of Mengistu's unreconstructed Stalinism.