In Brief

Ethiopia coup thwarted after army chief killed

Country’s military chief of staff assassinated by bodyguard as government sees off putsch in north

Ethiopia’s government has foiled a coup after the country’s military chief was shot dead by his bodyguard, the prime minister has revealed.  

Speaking on the state broadcaster dressed in military fatigues, Abiy Ahmed said the failed takeover in the Amhara region, which resulted in the death of state president Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser, was led by a high-ranking military officer and others within the military.

News of the coup followed the assignation of the army’s chief of staff Seare Mekonnen, who was killed at his residence in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Saturday. The prime minister’s spokesman later explained the authorities believe the killing and the attempted coup in Amhara were connected.

“There is a link between the two attacks,” the spokesman said.

“The attempted coup in Amhara is the latest challenge to Mr Abiy, who was elected last year as a reform-minded young leader”, says The Independent.

The news site says “Abiy has captured the imagination of many with his political and economic reforms, including the surprise acceptance of a peace agreement with bitter rival Eritrea, the opening of major state-owned sectors to private investment and the release of thousands of prisoners including opposition figures once sentenced to death”.

“Along the way he has faced some challenges” says the Daily Telegraph.

In June 2018, only months in office, an attempt to hurl a grenade at Abiy caused a deadly explosion at a massive rally in support of the sweeping changes in Ethiopia. Then in October rebellious Ethiopian soldiers protested over pay, causing a security incident in the capital.

The Irish Times says “the premier’s shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies”, while BBC Africa’s Emmanuel Igunza said the latest coup shows it “is clear there is still significant opposition within the military opposed to the prime minister’s style of leadership”.

He has also “battled a surge in tensions between ethnic groups in the diverse country – usually over land and resources – leading to deadly violence in the nation of more than 100 million people”, The Guardian reports.

Africa's oldest independent country, Ethiopia is also the continent's second most populous after Nigeria, with 102.5 million inhabitants from more than 80 different ethnic groups. One of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with one of Africa’s largest armies, the country has emerged as a key regionally ally for the West in recent years and an island of relative stability in an increasingly fractious region.

However, according to Agence France-Presse news agency, more than one 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” says RTE.

The first general election since Abiy came to power is due to be held next year “but it is very hard to see how this will go ahead in a country that is highly polarised. The atmosphere is just too toxic” ” says Igunza.

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