During a high-level meeting at Ethiopia’s foreign ministry in July, officials were shocked by social media reports that their prime minister was visiting Eritrea. No one in the room had been informed of Abiy Ahmed’s trip, his second since clinching a peace deal last year that ended two decades of hostility between the two neighbours. “The foreign office was not in the loop,” said a senior official who was present. “We learned of it from the Eritrean media, on Facebook and Twitter.” The surprise visit is typical of Abiy, who both fans and critics say often relies on bold personal initiatives and charisma to drive change instead of working through government institutions. Nebiat Getachew, the foreign ministry spokesman, said policy was well co-ordinated but he did not confirm that Abiy had made the July trip without informing the ministry. The deal with Eritrea won Abiy international plaudits. Abiy Ahmed is the bookmakers’ favourite to win a Nobel Peace Prize on Friday after climate activist Greta Thunberg. But Abiy’s unpredictable style annoys some Ethiopians. It is unclear how much of the fractious ruling coalition — some form of which has been in power since 1991 — backs his reforms, or how durable those reforms would be without his leadership. He has already survived one assassination attempt: a grenade thrown at a rally last year. Lasting change cannot be built through a “cult of personality”, said Comfort Ero, Africa programme director at the International Crisis Group think tank. “None of Abiy’s promised
A political party representing some of Ethiopia’s ethnic Sidama people said on Thursday it would postpone plans to declare a new region in defiance of the federal government and would accept the offer of a referendum in five months’ time. The plans would be a direct challenge to the federal government and could encourage eight other ethnic groups to make similar demands. “Now the most important thing is peace for our people,” Million Tumato, president of the Sidama Liberation Movement Party, told Reuters. “Still the five months timeline is not specific as it doesn’t indicate when the referendum will take place.” Earlier on Thursday protesters in the Ethiopian city of Hawassa had blocked roads and burned tires after security forces thwarted a meeting of activists to declare a new region for their Sidama ethnic group, witnesses said. The declaration would have been a test of whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal government can stick to its commitment to peaceful political reforms amid increasing demands from competing ethno-nationalist groups. Another official from the SLM blamed the national electoral board for the protests in Hawassa. “It tested the people’s patience. We could have avoided this situation had they acted one week ago,” said Dukale Lamiso, chairman of the Sidama Liberation Movement. “Nonetheless, we accept the timeline and we are ready to cooperate.” Hawassa is the capital of the multi-ethnic Southern Nations region but some Sidama – who make up the largest group there – want it as the capital of their own
A failed regional coup in Ethiopia has exposed rare divisions in the alliance that has dominated the country for three decades, with two of the four ethnic parties that form the ruling coalition trading insults in a public feud. While there have been disagreements among the parties in the past, analysts described the acrimonious exchange this week between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) as among the most serious yet. The two groups have shared power with two other ethnic parties since 1991 in a coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), that tolerated little dissent until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power last year and launched political reforms. The new tension between them arose after a rogue militia tried to seize power last month in the northern Amhara region, ruled by the ADP. The authorities blamed the June 22 attempted regional coup on Asamnew Tsige, a rogue ADP member, killed in fighting on the outskirts of the regional capital Bahir Dar. In recent days, the TPLF has accused the ADP of having stood by while Asamnew trained and armed a militia in the lead-up to the uprising, and of having failed to denounce him since. “The TPLF would have difficulty working with its so-called sister party, which hasn’t even dared to stare the killer in the eye,” Getachew Reda, executive member of TPLF and former national communication minister, told Reuters on Thursday. The ADP responded by accusing the TPLF of being “responsible
Ethiopia and the AU have been mediating between the military council and the pro-democracy movement demanding civilian rule. Talks collapsed when Sudanese security forces cleared a protest camp in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. The deadly clampdown killed at least 128 people cross the county, according to protest organizers.
Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday for the army chief of staff slain with four other senior officials in weekend attacks that posed the biggest threat yet to the prime minister’s reforms. Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally in his honour last year, sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief. Abiy took power 15 months ago and has won widespread international praise for kickstarting political and economic reforms, but his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home. His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources. The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in the national capital Adis Abeba underscored the threat of spiralling violence in Africa’s second-most populous nation. In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region’s main city Bahir Dar. The attacks were led by Amhara’s head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence. Asamnew, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister’s office. RISKS Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge
Ethiopia’s army chief of staff and the regional president of the northern state of Amhara were killed in two related attacks when a general tried to seize control of Amhara in an attempted coup, the prime minister’s office said on Sunday. Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor were shot dead and the state’s attorney general was wounded in Amhara’s capital of Bahir Dar on Saturday evening, according to a statement from the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. In a separate attack the same night, Ethiopia’s army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen and another retired general were shot dead in Seare’s home in Addis Ababa by his bodyguard. The two attacks were linked, the statement said, without giving details. Abiy’s office named Amhara state security head General Asamnew Tsige as responsible for the foiled coup, without giving details of his whereabouts. Asamnew was released from prison last year, having been given an amnesty for a similar coup attempt, according to media reports. Abiy took office just over a year ago and embarked on unprecedented reforms in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country and one of its fastest-growing economies. But the premier’s shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies, while his government is struggling to rein in powerful figures in Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources. The shooting in Bahir Dar occurred when the state president – an ally of Abiy – was holding a
Opposition politicians in Ethiopia are warning against a delay to national elections due in 2020 that would be the first under reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed but are under threat from an explosion of regional ethnic rivalries. Earlier this month, the election board said insecurity, which has driven 2.4 million people out of their homes according to the United Nations, could delay next year’s parliament vote. A national census has already been postponed twice, potentially undermining logistics for the polls including the drawing up of constituencies. Critics say postponing the national vote could cause an adverse social reaction, further fuel regional conflicts, and damage Abiy’s democratic credentials. “If the government is going to postpone the general election … it will anger the public,” former political prisoner Merera Gudina told Reuters by phone. He chairs the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress party from a region, Oromia, at the heart of anti-government protests in recent years. “Once the public begins to express its anger … no one will have the means or the power to control it.” Ethiopia’s 100 million citizens are seeing unprecedented political change. Abiy, who took power last year after his predecessor suddenly resigned, has freed journalists and activists, lifted bans on political parties, and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses. “CONFLICTS ESCALATING” Those reforms followed three years of sporadic deadly protests against the government in which hundreds died and thousands were imprisoned. Local elections last year were postponed due to unrest. Election board chairwoman Birtukan Mideksa acknowledged
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister on Thursday pursued a plan to return displaced people to their homes following ethnic violence, meeting communities who recently went home, as relief workers voiced fears that the initiative could provoke fresh violence. Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April 2018, has won international plaudits for announcing bold reform pledges, but the blossoming of political freedoms over the past year has been accompanied by a surge in ethnic violence. Rivalries between ethnic groups — once repressed by a state with an iron fist — have exploded into the open, and the United Nations says 2.4 million Ethiopians are currently displaced due to these conflicts. More people were displaced last year in the Horn of Africa nation than in any other country, according to data published this month. Earlier this month the government announced it was scaling up its plan to return displaced people to their homes as soon as possible, a message Abiy reinforced on Thursday when his office published photos of him speaking with people from the Gedeo and West Guji areas in southern Ethiopia who had recently returned to their homes. The area was the site of brutal violence last year — Reuters spoke in August to the family of a coffee farmer whose limbs were chopped off by a mob of young men. [L8N1VD2UM] About 700,000 people fled ethnic violence in the area last year. Abiy’s delegation, which included his Minsiter of Peace Muferiat Kamil, provided the communities with building materials to rebuild their
Born in Ethiopia in 1892, Haile Selassie was crowned emperor in 1930 but exiled during World War II after leading the resistance to the Italian invasion. He was reinstated in 1941 and sought to modernize the country over the next few decades through social, economic and educational reforms. He ruled until 1974, when famine, unemployment and political opposition forced him from office.
Among his father’s important allies was his cousin, Emperor Menelik II, who did not have a male heir to succeed him. Tafari seemed like a possible candidate when, following his father’s death in 1906, he was taken under the wing of Menelik.
In 1913, however, after the passing of Menelik II, it was the emperor’s grandson, Lij Yasu, not Tafari, who was appointed as emperor. But Yasu, who maintained a close association with Islam, never gained favor with Ethiopia’s majority Christian population. As a result Tafari became the face of the opposition, and in 1916 he took power from Lij Yasu and imprisoned him for life. The following year Menelik II’s daughter, Zauditu, became empress, and Tafari was named regent and heir apparent to the throne.