Uncertainty in Ethiopia after five officials’ assassination

By Andualem Sisay Gessesse – On Saturday evening state media reported about coup attempt in Amhara Region of Ethiopia indicating that the president of the region Dr. Ambachew Mekonnen was shot and wounded. The president and his colleagues were in a meeting when gunmen enter the office and started shooting.

In the evening on the state broadcaster, ETV, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is also commander in chief of the Ethiopian Army, appeared in army uniform and denounced what he called coup attempt. He urged the people to remain calm.

In the morning state media reported that the foiled coup orchestrated by Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, who was the head of Amhara Region Peace and Security, has led to the death of the President of Amhara Region of Ethiopia Dr. Ambachew Mekonnen and his colleague, Ezez Wasse.

The assassination took place around 5 pm on Saturday afternoon. The Amhara Mass Media Agency this morning has reported that Migbaru Kebede, Attorney General of the Amhara Region, who was in the meeting is also injured during the attack.

The news was followed by another breaking news, about the assassination of Ethiopian Army Chief of Staff, General Seare Mekonnen and his friend who is a retired Major General Gezae Abera. The army chief and his friend were assassinated by the bodyguard of General Seare in Addis Ababa a few hours after the assassination (around 9 PM) of the President of Amhara Region.

General Seare was leading the command post that was handling the operation to foil the coup attempt in Amhara Region’s capital, Bahir Dar city, according to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called on everybody to calm down as everything is under control. He also promised that the government will release details of the coup attempt soon.

In their condolence messages the heads of different regional administration of Ethiopia expressed their condolences and condemned the act as an attempt to destabilize the nation. “These anti-peace forces plan to kill our best men,” indicating that both General Seare and his friend Major General Gezae Abera are from Tigray region of Ethiopia.

“…The coup was well orchestrated and we can imagine that there will also be other similar assassination attempts. This is an attempt to destabilize the country,” said Debretsion Gebremichael the head of Tigray Region.

The mastermind of the alleged coup, Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, who latter announced dead, was released from jail after Prime Minister came to power and appointed to serve as head of Amhara region peace and security.

“We can’t tolerate any more such attacks on our reform, which is the result of sacrifices of all Ethiopians,” said Shimelis Abdissa, head of Oromia Region of Ethiopia, in his televised condolences message. “Their sacrifices will not stop us from pursuing the change – reform. No force will take back the reform we have embarked up on. We consider what happened to Amhara leaders as an attack on the people Oromo. It is anti-constitutional,” Shimelis said.

Since the reformist Prime Minister Abiy came to power in April 2018, over a million people have been internally displaced mainly, due to ethnic tensions and conflicts. Appreciating the neighboring countries, who he said are expressing their willingness to assist the government of Ethiopia to foil the coup, PM Abiy stated that he is leading a command post that is capable of handling the coup related current situation.

In Ethiopia in June 2018 there was an assassination attempt on PM Abiy in Addis Ababa during his supporters’ rally. A few months later some armed soldiers have also tried to enter his palace, which some labeled it as, a military coup attempt.

“The command post now led by the prime minister may hunt and arrest the people involved in this coup attempt, but this is not the lasting solution for such frequent attempts,” says Dr. Mererra Gudina, Political Science Professor at Addis Ababa University and a veteran opposition figure. He believes that Saturdays coup is a serious one – not just the usual game the ruling coalition.

“The lasting solution is an all-inclusive genuine political dialogue that brings national consensus and stability in the country. All those with different interests have to sit and negotiate to come up with a clear roadmap. That is the day the people will be stable and can say this is my government,” says Dr. Mererra.

The assassinated General Seare was appointed as chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Army by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed about a year ago. He replaced the previous chief of Staff, General Samora Yonus, who was also from Tigray ethnic group and forced to retire in honor by the reformist Prime Minister Abiy.
Divided in nine regions and two administrative cities Ethiopian constitution allows each region to declare independence.

As a result, some activists and political parties are pushing agenda of separation from the rest of Ethiopia. While others have been struggling for the change of the constitution and abolition of ethnic based federalism and regions.

The fact that some the regions of Ethiopia have well equipped militias is considered by critics as a major challenge for the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration to restore peace and security in the country and sustain the unity of Ethiopia.

After Prime Minister Abiy, who is from Oromo ethnic group, came to power division within the ruling coalition, Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been observed. Especially one of the four member parties of EPRDF, the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been dominating the coalition for the past three decades has not been happy with the reform.

For over a year some online activists and politicians have also been fueling conflicts in the country using social media and ethnic regional ethnic based media outlets. Due to such instability and mass displacement, last month the country was forced to cancel its planned housing and population census.

Recently all the security apparatuses of Ethiopia have consulted and passed a resolution to properly handle and coordinate the peace and security operations in the country. The individuals and groups who conducted the assassination have taken such measure in fear of what will happen to them following the recent decision of that consultation, according to PM Abiy.

The Ethiopian Army communication head, General Hassen Ebrahim, in his video statement has also indicated that the assassinated General Seare has been promoting unity among the army members stressing that they are not there to serve a certain ethnic group or religion.

General Hassen indicated that the coup is fully under control and the intention was to divide the members of the army in different ethnic group and create chaos in the country.

“I want to stress that the army is still united and one. There is no division on ethnic or other lines, he said indicating that such attempts will strengthen the army’s unity. This tragedy has occurred on the people, the country and the army. And everybody has to denounce it and collaborate with the army to restore peace and security,” he said.

Now the country, which blocked the Internet since Saturday’s coup attempt, is planning to undertake general election within one year in May 2020. Will Prime Minster Abiy’s administration resolve these ethnic tensions and conflicts before the election? is the question many people are asking. Many people also agree that Ethiopian politics at the moment is full of uncertainties. Nobody seems to be sure about where the country is heading.

“Politics is the art of the possible. Trying to achieve the impossible may lead Ethiopia to a more severe problem,” says Dr. Mererra, advising everybody to sit together and negotiate on how to peacefully conduct the upcoming general election on time and give power to the people.

“I suggest the Ethiopian government needs to use this opportunity to create national consensus on our complex politics and get a clear national roadmap,” says Dr. Mererra.

EDITOR’S NOTE- The shorter version of this article was first Published on 7D News on Monday.