Ethiopians and other Africans woke up on Saturday, June 22 to the shocking news of an attempted coup d’état in the Horn of African country’s Amhara region. It was an explosion of deep rooted ethnic and ideological differences among the country’s ruling elite.During the attempted coup against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, two separate attacks took place in Amhara’s regional capital, Bahir Dar and in Addis Ababa.The attempt claimed many lives, including that of the region’s president, the national Army Chief of Staff and several other senior officials.
The government said the attack in Bahir Dar was a coup attempt orchestrated by former General Asamnew Tsige, who was killed in the ensuing melee.The think tank Crisis Group said in a statement that Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, which is mainly divided along ethnic lines, is facing an unprecedented challenge from ethno-nationalist parties. It said,”The June 22 killings confirm the dangers in handing security portfolios to hardliners like Asamnew who are (were) ready to pander to extreme ethno-nationalists, from whichever of Ethiopia’s ethnicities.”
Men in camouflage uniforms allegedly killed more than 50 people and injured 23 including women and children in the Metakal zone of Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region, the Head of the region’s Peace and Security Bureau, Abera Bayeta, said.Ethiopian government officials have accused Asamnew of training militias and police forces with the intention of attacking neighbouring regional states and challenging the power of the Federal Government.Jailed in 2009, Asamnew was released from prison in 2018 as part of an amnesty granted by Prime Minister Abiy.
In September 2018, shortly after his release, officials in Amhara region hired Asamnew as a regional security chief. Soon after he assumed duties, he promised to protect the Amhara people, who make up around 28 per cent of Ethiopia’s population.Asamnew was caught on video in June telling a regional religious elder to prepare for martyrdom to protect the Amhara people from alleged persecution.
Ethiopian authorities have arrested hundreds of people in different parts of the countryin the aftermath of the foiled coup. The Prime Minister’s office said as at Friday last week, 212 suspects had been apprehended in Amhara region and 43 others were arrested in Addis Ababa.Christian Tadele, spokesman of the ethnocentric opposition party National Movement of Amhara [NAMA] accused authorities of engaging in mass arrests of the party’s supporters.
The sad event of June 22 has threatened the stability of Ethiopia, which has been making waves as an emerging African economic tiger. With a population of 105 million in 2017, it is also one of the most populous countries in Africa. Ethiopia is also one of the Third World countries that has shown the greatest economic promise in recent times. Its annual economic growth rate of 8% is the African continent’s highest.
We are therefore saddened that political turmoil is creeping into Ethiopia which had witnessed political stability since 1991. Only recently, Ethiopia was in the forefront of mediation between Sudan’s military rulers and protesters. Despite the apparent failure of the coup attempt, analysts say Abiy’s government will likely find it difficult to control ethno-national forces in the country ahead of national elections next year.Costantinos Berhutesfa Costantinos, an Ethiopian adviser to international organisations including the African Union, said the country is at a critical juncture.
It is not for other Africans to dictate to Ethiopia’s political leaders how they should run their affairs, since the country is the home to a 3,000-year-old civilisation. Unlike most other African countries, Ethiopia was never successfully colonised even though it had its own history of invasion, rebellion, coups and civil war. It might be helpful however for Ethiopia to couple its economic success with some political liberalisation. Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is the permanent seat of the African Union. As such, we expect its leaders to be role models in national conflict resolution by resolving the current turmoil in their country as soon as possible.
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