The Derg Campaign
Wondimu Wonde (Ethiopian, 1918 – 2002)
Mediumpaint on canvas
DimensionsWork : 36 x 67 in. (91.44 cm x 1.7 m)
Credit LineGift of Neal and Elizabeth Sobania
LabelThe Derg was a Marxist military junta that ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. Composed mainly of low-ranking soldiers, the Derg led a radical overhaul of Ethiopia's traditional political, social, economic and cultural institutions. They abolished the hereditary aristocracy, nationalized land and redistributed it among the lower classes, promoted socialist economic reforms, and greatly restricted the power of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Although some of these changes were initially welcomed by the Ethiopian people, popular sentiment turned against the Derg in 1977 after the junta launched a vicious campaign to root out possible opponents that resulted in tens of thousands of people being imprisoned and executed without trial. Resistance to the Derg increased further in the 1980s after the regime's inept management of a natural drought caused a severe famine that killed more than a million people. The Derg was officially dissolved in 1987, but many key leaders remained in power until they were overthrown by a popular insurrection in 1991. This 1993 painting by Wondimu Wonde depicting the horrors of the Derg period includes scenes of political indoctrination, arrests and imprisonments and mass executions.