The largest country in the Horn of Africa was shaken by a coup attempt on June 23, but what brought the country to this point?
The country’s army chief is killed
Ethiopia was shaken by a renegade general who tried to seize control of the northern state of Amhara on June 23. The government has survived the coup attempt but four officials, including the army chief, were killed in Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region.
The army chief, General Seare Mekonnen was shot dead at his residence in the capital Addis Ababa along with a retired army general, Major General Gezayee Abera, who was visiting Mekonnen at the time.
“Both lost their lives in an organised and coordinated attack by the bodyguard,” the Ethiopian prime minister said in a statement on Sunday.
The Amhara region’s President Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor, Gize Abera, were also killed in Amhara. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the region’s president was killed by people who were close to him.
Most of the people who attempted the coup were arrested, the prime minister said during a televised address on Sunday.
It’s not the first coup attempt
According to officials, the coup attempt was led by a local security chief, General Asaminew Tsige. The general has spent almost a decade in prison over a prior coup attempt in 2009. He was released last year as part of a drive by the then newly-elected Ahmed, who released political prisoners in a bid to transform the country’s political landscape in response to public pressure.
Asamine openly encouraged the Amhara people, one of Ethiopia’s larger ethnic groups, to arm themselves in a video spread on Facebook a week earlier, Reuters reported.
Abiy Ahmed tested by ethnic tensions
The Horn of Africa’s most populous country, which is home to more than 80 different ethnic groups, has been experiencing ethnic violence, which has heightened over the last few years.
When Ahmed took office last year in April amid political unrest that caused the resignation of his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, he was perceived as a sign of hope for the country’s future.
Since his election, he has transformed the country’s political landscape as he released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties, increased the participation of women in politics and took measures to address human rights abuses. He also brokered a peace treaty with neighbouring Eritrea, a longtime foe after a bitter war.
However, the new prime minister’s steps were not enough to end ethnic tensions as he called for pan-Ethiopian unity. Observers say his plans to hold an election in 2020 have stirred up rivalries between the country’s ethnic autonomous regions. The country was partitioned on ethnic lines in 1991.