Ethiopia’s army chief killed amid regional ‘coup’ bid

June 24, 2019

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces a failed coup as he addresses the nation on Sunday.—AP
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces a failed coup as he addresses the nation on Sunday.—AP

ADDIS ABABA: Ethi­opia’s army chief and a top local leader have been shot dead during an attempt to overthrow a regional government in the north of the country, underscoring political instability as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tries to reform the nation.

Violence flared on Saturday afternoon in Amhara, one of nine autonomous regions, when a “hit squad” attacked a meeting of top officials, PM Ahmed’s office said on Sunday.

Spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told journalists the Amhara “coup attempt” was led by local security chief Asaminew Tsige, who was only last year released from almost a decade in prison over a 2009 coup plot.

There are no clear signs of a broader coup attempt

State president Amba­chew Mekonnen and his adv­i­ser were “gravely injured in the attack and later died of their wounds”, she said, adding that the regional attorney general had been seriously wounded.

“Several hours later in what seems like a coordinated attack, the chief of the staff of the national security forces Seare Mekonnen was killed in his home by his bodyguard,” she said. Seare and a visiting retired general were shot dead in his home in the upmarket Bole district of Addis Ababa.

The bodyguard has been apprehended while Tsige was still on the loose, sources said.

The link between the two attacks and their motives were not immediately clear.

“We don’t know what the broader intentions of the attackers were,” Inter­­­national Crisis Group analyst William Davison said.

“There are no clear signs of a broader coup attempt in Addis. The government has linked the assassination of the chief of staff to the Bahir Dar [Amhara] attack, but otherwise it appears to be an isolated incident, which suggests there wasn’t a concerted attempt at a national coup,” he added.

Amhara is the homeland of the ethnic group by the same name, and the birthplace of many of its emperors as well as the national language Amharic.

The Amhara are the second-largest ethnic grouping after the Oromo, and both spearheaded two years of anti-government protests which led to the resignation of former PM Hai­lemariam Desalegn.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2019