Military Coup in Ethiopia
Asamnew Tsige Leads Attempted Military Coup in Ethiopia’s Amhara State
Senior Ethiopian officials have been killed in an attempted coup in Ethiopia’s northern state of Amhara were killed during a coup attempt led by General Asamnew Tsige in the northern state of Amhara, state television announced Sunday.
Ethiopia’s chief of staff and at least three other senior officials, including Amhara’s state president Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor were killed. State media named the region’s security head, General Asamnew Tsige, as the leader of the attempted coup.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government faces growing pressure from regional challengers, including in Amhara, a hotspot in increasing ethnic violence in Ethiopia.
The shooting occurred when federal officials were meeting the state president, an ally of Abiy, to discuss how to rein in the open recruitment of ethnic militias by Asamnew Tsige, one Addis-based official told Reuters.
A week earlier, Asamnew Tsige had openly advised the Amhara people, one of Ethiopia’s larger ethnic groups, to arm themselves, in a video spread on Facebook.
Ethiopia, a nation of 100 million people, is struggling to contain widespread ethnic violence that has displaced around 2.4 million people, according to the United Nations.
Wearing military uniform, Abiy Ahmed announced on state television late Saturday that there had been an attempted coup in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar earlier that day and that Ethiopia’s Chief of Staff General Seare Mekonnen was among the casualties.
“He was shot by people who are close to him,” Abiy said.
Coup Plotters Arrested
Seare was killed by his bodyguard, state media reported Sunday. Most of the perpetrators had been arrested, a general in charge of special forces in Amhara told state media Sunday.
According to regional sources, it is believed that Ethiopia’s Military Intelligence Chief General Hasen Ibrahim has been put under house arrest.
Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms in the Horn of Africa nation. Three years of political violence led to the unprecedented resignation of Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence.
Ethnic bloodshed, long held in check by the state’s iron grip, has flared in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government was led by Mekonnen.
U.S. Embassy aware
On Saturday, the U.S. Embassy said that it was aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa, and some residents told Reuters about hearing six shots ring out in a suburb near the country’s Bole International Airport around 9:30 p.m. local time Saturday. The government did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
People in many parts of Ethiopia reported being unable to access the Internet beginning late Saturday although the government has not stated whether it had cut it off. Authorities have cut off the internet several times in the past for security and other reasons.
Regional media reported that the Internet is still cut across Ethiopia with nationwide connectivity currently now at 10% with capital and most states offline.
Early on Sunday, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.”
Residents in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar said late Saturday there was gunfire in some neighborhoods and some roads had been closed off.
Ethiopia is to hold a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.