Ethiopia Security Forces Kill Alleged Coup Leader

Ethiopian forces identified General Asaminew Tsige as the man behind the recent coup attempt. This attempt left five senior government officials dead, including Seare Mekonnen (the now former Chief of Staff for Ethiopian national security) and Migbara Kebede (now former Attorney General). Immediately following the failed coup attempt, Asaminew went into hiding before being found and killed while attempting to flee. This attempted coup was comprised of apparently two coordinate attacks. The first came when Asaminew and a group of co-conspirators broke into a state office meeting in Addis Ababa. This first attack resulted in the death of regional President Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor Ezez Wassie. The second attack was against the previously mentioned Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen. Mekonnen was shot and killed by his bodyguard in, what was thought to be the comfort of his own home. Fortunately, most of the people involved in carrying out the coup attempt have been detained. However, there are some still in hiding and potentially more who were prepared for larger scale attacks and/or movements. These attacks have resulted in the tightening of inner government circles as well as heightened security and military presence throughout Addis Ababa and Amhara.

Through an Ethiopian television interview, the head of Amhara special forces (General Tefera Mamo) stated that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.” What is disturbing to Ethiopia, and the rest of the world, is that Mekonnen “was shot by the people who are close to him” as stated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during an address to the nation. At another point in said addressing of the nation, Prime Minister Ahmed stated that “The situation in the Amhara region is currently under full control by the Federal Government in collaboration with the regional government.” While this appears to be a comforting statement, it lacks certain credibility given General Mamo’s remarks.

Coup attempts are some of the most serious issues faced by governments. For national security reasons, not all details of these events have been disclosed by the Ethiopian government. Due to this lack of disclosure, it cannot be determined whether or not the security forces (who killed Asaminew) were acting in a form of self-defence; or if they were going into the manhunt with the intention of shooting to kill. If given the choice, forces should prioritize human life and work to capture rather than kill if at all possible. Finally, the Prime Minister’s press office released a statement saying that “The coup attempt in Amhara regional state is against the constitution and is intended to scupper the hard-won peace of the region.”

While the underlying cause of this coup attempt has not yet been discovered/disclosed, there are various working theories and crucial facts to be considered. To begin, Prime Minister Abiy has been enacting considerable amounts of change since coming into office. These changes have been for the good, however those (such as Asaminew) who were a part of older and more restrictive regimes are not in favour of these changes. Abiy has created stability with Eritrea, moved to release political prisoners, removed previous bans on political parties, and been a leading force in the prosecution of those who have committed human rights atrocities. Members of the Ethiopian military have also made threats in the past to Abiy demanding pay raises. These combined with a history of instability and a lack of political respect are likely the breeding grounds for this recent coup attempt. Regarding Asaminew himself and the rising ethnic tensions in Ethiopia, the coup leader was previously in prison for nine years on a conviction of plotting a coup attempt. He had also been calling the Amhara people to arm themselves and be prepared to fight for greater ethnic nationalism, thus leading to greater instability and hate within the country.

Prime Minister Abiy and his supporters seem to be optimistic about the future of Ethiopia and its geopolitical setting. They are continuing to move forward with progressive measures to reduce corruption and improve the lives of their people. However, something as serious as a coup attempt does in fact bring a sense of doubt. Thankfully it appears to be handled, for the time being, yet the Ethiopian government needs to take a strong stance regarding bringing people together and reducing the use of violence whenever feasible. A strong united force will not only provide comfort and stability within the country, but it will also begin to foster the same feeling throughout the region.