The chief of staff of the Ethiopian Army, Gen Seare Mekonnen, was shot to death by his own bodyguard on Saturday evening in the African country’s capital, Addis Ababa. Another general, Gezai Abera, was shot as well. According to the Ethiopian government, the assassinations were related to the assassination of the governor of Amhara, earlier on Saturday. Governor Ambachew Mekonnen and his senior adviser were both killed at a meeting and the attorney general was wounded.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appeared on Ethiopian TV in military fatigues on Saturday to encourage Ethiopians to unite against the “evil” forces attempting to divide the country. “He [Ambachew] was shot by people who are close to him,” the prime minister said, placing the blame for the coup attempt on Amhara’s regional security chief, Brig-Gen Asaminew Tsige. Amhara, a state in northwest Ethiopia has seen increasingly tense relations between ethnic groups in recent years. Ethiopia’s 102.5 million residents stem from over 80 different ethnic groups.
According to the prime minister’s press office on Sunday, many involved in the coup attempt have already been arrested and others will be detained shortly. “The coup attempt in Amhara regional state is against the constitution and is intended to scupper the hard-won peace of the region,” a government statement said. “This illegal attempt should be condemned by all Ethiopians and the federal government has full capacity to overpower this armed group.”
Prime Minister Abiy, who was elected last year and has made sweeping positive changes, improving human rights in Ethiopia as well as political freedom, has a difficult battle ahead of him. The slain army chief of staff was appointed by Abiy, who made many changes to the army system as well. Ambachew, Amhara’s slain governor, also gained power largely through Abij’s influence and was an important ally for him in Amhara.
Abiy had freed thousands of political prisoners, lifted bans on political parties, cracked down on human rights offenses, unblocked censored websites, made peace with long-standing rival Eritrea and is taking steps to develop the economy as well.
Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Israelis in Ethiopia to be extremely cautious. “In view of the reports of the assassination of the Ethiopian chief of staff and the injury to other people, and in light of the uncertainty regarding the current situation in the country, Israelis staying in Ethiopia should take extra care,” the ministry said.
Israelis should “avoid gatherings, stay away from local demonstrations, and in general, Israeli citizens currently in Ethiopia are advised to stay in their homes until the situation becomes clearer.”