Wife says Ethiopian general arrested after criticising government

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Brigadier General Tefera Mamo
Brigadier General Tefera Mamo
BBC News Africa/ @BBCAfrica
  • Brigadier General Tefera Mamo was due in court on Friday after being arrested this week, his wife said.
  • Tefera last Sunday criticised Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's strategy against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
  • His wife, Menen Haile, told Reuters a family member who saw him in detention after he was picked up from a meeting in Ethiopia on Monday.

A prominent Ethiopian general who has been critical of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government was due in court on Friday after being arrested this week, his wife said.

Brigadier General Tefera Mamo commanded the Amhara region's military, which has backed Abiy's federal troops against rebellious forces in northern Tigray, until February when he was removed for unexplained reasons.

Last Sunday, he gave a TV interview where he criticised Abiy's strategy against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and also accused Amhara members of the prime minister's ruling party of being motivated by money.

On Monday, Tefera was picked up after meeting a friend in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa and flown by helicopter back to Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara, his wife Menen Haile told Reuters, citing a family member who saw him in detention.

The president and spokesperson of Amhara's regional administration did not respond to requests for comment or confirmation of his arrest. Police did not respond either.

Critics say Abiy, who won a Nobel Peace Prize after taking power as a reformist in 2018, is cracking down on dissent around Ethiopia. He says he is guaranteeing stability and law-and-order in the multi-ethnic nation.

Clashes and arrests

Tefera's case comes during reports of arrests and a clash in one town of Amhara, Ethiopia's second most populous region, where a 2019 uprising led by a dissident general killed the regional president and chief of army staff.

On Thursday, allied federal and regional troops clashed in Motta with members of a volunteer militia known as Fano, according to Fano member Tafere Damete. He gave no more details.

Fano had been helping federal and Amhara soldiers in the Tigray war, and in his TV interview, Tefera had said the movement should not be sidelined.

A student leader, Eshetu Getinet, told Reuters that two Fano members had been detained in recent days in the regional capital and operations were underway to pick up more.

One journalist from local media outlet Ashara, which has focussed recent reporting on Fano, told Reuters that five of its journalists were also detained on Thursday.

Adding that they shut down Ashara's offices in Bahir Dar, he said:

Those who took them were wearing a uniform of Amhara special forces, Amhara police and anti-riot forces. I was hiding in a toilet when they took them.

Amhara officials, military and police had no comment.

Ethiopian army spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane referred a Reuters request to the government spokesperson, who did not immediately reply.

Daniel Bekele, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, said his team was monitoring Tefera's detention closely. "We are gravely concerned about the wave of arrests which has also included journalists," he told Reuters.

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