Ethiopia army chief, local officials killed amid regional 'coup' bid

2019-06-25 05:16
In this handout videograb released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on television after a failed coup. (Ethiopian TV, HO, AFP)

In this handout videograb released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on television after a failed coup. (Ethiopian TV, HO, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ethiopia's army chief and a top local leader have been shot dead during an attempt to overthrow a regional government in northern Ethiopia, underscoring political instability in the country as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tries to push through reforms.

The latest unrest in the Horn of Africa nation flared on Saturday afternoon in Amhara, one of nine autonomous regions, when a "hit squad" attacked a meeting of top officials, Abiy's office said on Sunday.

Spokesperson Billene Seyoum told journalists the Amhara "coup attempt" was led by local security chief Asaminew Tsige, and resulted in state president Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor being shot.

The men 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 co-ordinated attack, the chief of the staff of the national security forces Seare Mekonnen was killed in his home by his bodyguard" in the capital, she added.

Seare and a visiting retired general were shot dead in his home in the upmarket Bole district of Addis Ababa, home to diplomats, aid workers and expats.

The bodyguard has been apprehended while Asaminew is still on the loose, sources said.

According to the statement from Abiy's office, the situation in Amhara region is "currently under full control by the federal government in collaboration with the regional government".

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. It is not apparent that there was any organised plan to take over the regional government, but it is possible," International Crisis Group analyst William Davison told AFP.

"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 attack, but otherwise it appears to be an isolated incident, which suggests there wasn't a concerted attempt at a national coup."

The internet has been cut nationwide since Saturday evening, after being severed for much of the previous week.

A journalist in the regional capital Bahir Dar told AFP shooting had begun shortly after sunset and continued for several hours before ceasing. On Sunday he described the city as a "ghost town".

The United States embassy issued alerts about reported gunfire in the capital Addis Ababa, and violence around Amhara's main city Bahir Dar.

Deep political crisis

Amhara, in Ethiopia's northern highlands, 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 prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Abiy, an Oromo, took power in April 2018 and has been lauded for a string of efforts to reform a nation which has known only the authoritarian rule of emperors and strongmen.

He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, sought to crack down on rights abuses and arrested dozens of top military and intelligence officials

He also sealed a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea, a longtime foe.

However the loosening of the reins has also unleashed a wave of unrest.

Ethiopia's 1995 constitution, written by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) after it unseated the Derg military junta in 1991, partitioned the country into nine autonomous regions with borders following ethnic lines.

The EPRDF itself is a coalition of four parties from Oromia, Amhara, Tigray and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region.

Observers say that Abiy's plans to hold an election in 2020 has stirred up resentment in local politics and seen a rise in ethno-nationalism.

Longstanding tensions in a country of more than 80 ethnic groups have burst into the open, often over land and resources in Africa's second most-populous nation.

Over a million people have been displaced by ethnic clashes, which analysts attribute to multiple causes, such as the weakening of the once all-powerful ruling EPRDF and different groups trying to take advantage of opportunities presented by the political transition.

The security chief Asaminew, accused of being behind the attack in Amhara, was in 2018 released from prison after being held over a 2009 coup plot by the armed opposition group Ginbot 7.

He is seen as an Amhara hardliner, particularly in regards to tensions with neighbouring Tigray region over disputed territory.

The coup attempt comes a year after a grenade explosion at a rally that Abiy was addressing left two people dead.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

Read more on:    ethiopia  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.