Ethiopian Military Chief Killed After Failed Coup

Ethiopian state media announced on June 25 that Brigadier General Asamnew Tsige has been captured and killed. Asamnew was accused of launching a coup attempt in the region of Amhara. Attacks over the weekend left five dead, including several members of the regional government of Amhara, which is home to the Amhara people, Ethiopia’s second-largest ethnic group. Asamnew was accused of orchestrating the attacks that killed the army’s chief of staff General Seare Mekonnen and Amhara’s regional president Ambachew Mekonnen on June 22.

Retired General Gezai Abera and Seare were allegedly assassinated by the latter’s bodyguard at his home in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, on June 22. Officials confirmed that the bodyguard was being treated for gunshot wounds after previously reporting that he had killed himself, the BBC reported.

In a separate attack that same night, Ambachew, his advisor, and Amhara’s attorney general were shot in the regional capital of Bahir Dar, officials said. Ambachew and his advisor were killed during the attack, while the attorney general succumbed to his injuries on June 24, according to Reuters. The attack in Bahir Dar occurred while Ambachew held a meeting to decide how to end Asamnew’s recruitment of ethnic Amhara militias, Reuters reported. In a video shared on Facebook a week before the attack, Asamnew encouraged the Amhara people to arm themselves for a fight against other groups.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, wearing military fatigues, announced the failed coup attempt on state television on June 22. Bahir Dar residents reported hours of gunfire that night, and some roads in the city were closed. In a statement the following day, the prime minister said that the situation in the region was under “full control by the Federal Government in collaboration with the regional government.” The country held a day of national mourning on June 24, Tagesse Chafo, the speaker of Parliament, said.

Abiy’s office identified Asamnew, Amhara’s head of state security, as responsible for the failed coup attempt. Media reports said Asamnew was released from prison in 2018 after receiving amnesty for planning a similar coup attempt, Reuters reported. After the elections in 2018 and his rise to prime minister, Abiy has pushed unprecedented changes in Africa’s second-most populous country. In July of 2018, Ethiopia officially declared an end to twenty years of hostilities with Eritrea following a horrific war over a contested border. The leaders of both countries announced the neighboring nations would resume trade, economic, and diplomatic ties, The New York Times reported.

Abiy, who has gained international praise for these changes, also released political prisoners, shook up the military and intelligence services, and removed bans on some illegal separatist groups. In doing so, Abiy has created some powerful enemies, according to Reuters. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy told reporters in South Africa that the attacks were likely in response to the prime minister’s rise to power and his reforms. “There are vestiges of the old regime in power. Some of the elites are very unhappy with some of the reforms that… Abiy is taking for a variety of reasons including, I’m sure, some ill-gotten gains,” Nagy said,Nagy, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia, told reporters that Abiy has “an incredible number of issues” he must now address.Ethnic tensions in Amhara and throughout Ethiopia have risen in the wake of Abiy’s reforms. Nearly three million people have been displaced within the country due to ethnic disputes, the United Nations (UN) said.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the events in Ethiopia and said the international organization stood by the Ethiopian government. Guterres called on “all Ethiopian stakeholders to demonstrate restraint, prevent violence, and avoid any action that could undermine the peace and stability of Ethiopia.”

“The Secretary General welcomes the commitment of the Prime Minister and Government of Ethiopia to ensure that the perpetrators of these actions are brought to justice,” the statement continued. “The United Nations remains committed to supporting the Government of Ethiopia in its efforts to address ongoing challenges.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.