Confusion remains following what media around the world have described as an attempt to seize power in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, as well as in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa on Saturday, June 22. It is still a confusing situation as many people have been displaced by military activity and as arrests continue in a government effort to quell tensions.
News stories from the following online publications; Al Jazeera, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the British Telegraph, Reuters News Agency, as well as The New York Times, all point to ethnic tensions as a factor in the attempt to seize power in Ethiopia.
According to Al Jazeera online, “Ethiopians have been in shock since two separate attacks on Saturday in Amhara’s regional capital of Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa killed the region’s president, the national army chief of staff and several other senior officials.”
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed cast responsibility for the insurrection on former army General Tsige Asamnew. He was killed two days later by security forces. Asamnew had been released from prison in an amnesty after Ahmed became Prime Minister in April 2018. Asamnew was subsequently hired as regional security chief in September.
Prime Minister Ahmed, 43, who became the country’s leader following the resignation of Hailmariam Desalegn, has been undertaking reforms, which analysts say may have angered some of the country’s ethnic groups.
In this analysis of the situation, the BBC’s Africa Editor, Fergan Keane, writing online states that rising ethnic tensions may be to blame for the destabilizing events. While he was seen as a reformer, and even touted his own achievements, according to the BBC story, the culmination of ethnic tensions, years in the making, boiled over.
“Now after an alleged coup attempt against the Amhara regional government which killed his army chief of staff and close ally, General Seare Mekonnen, Mr Abiy’s position and the future of his reforms look much less secure.”
Keane continues, “The alleged instigator of the coup was shot dead and a wave of arrests followed. But nobody with any knowledge of Ethiopia believes this is the end of the matter.”
It may not be the end of the story after the coup was foiled, meaning, with ethnic rivalry still a factor in the country, challenges to the leadership in Ethiopia may return in full force.
Elias Gebresellasie of Al Jazeera writes, “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.”
He says “More than 250 people in Amhara and Addis Ababa held over suspected links to recent failed power-grab attempt.”
On June 30 the British Telegraph meanwhile sees what is taking place as a Balkan-style ethnic conflagration that may unravel and destabilize the country. The publication’s Africa correspondent, Adrian Blomfield issues a “Warnings over ‘Africa’s Yugoslavia’ as Ethiopia coup attempt heightens the risk of violent Balkan-style split”
In this Reuters report, published by The New York Times on June 24, the publication, like many others, sees ethnic divisions as a big factor in the country’s politics:
“He has won widespread international praise for his efforts, but his shake-ups of the military and intelligence services have earned him powerful enemies. At the same time, his government is struggling to contain powerful figures in Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups who are fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.”