Ethiopia army chief shot dead in ‘coup bid’ attacks

8 mins read


The chief of staff of the Ethiopian army, Gen Seare Mekonnen, has been shot dead by his own bodyguard in the capital, Addis Ababa.

He and another officer died trying to prevent a coup attempt against the administration in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region, PM Abiy Ahmed said.

In Amhara itself, regional governor Ambachew Mekonnen was killed along with an adviser.

The government says the situation is under control after arrests were made.

The prime minister has gone on TV to urge Ethiopians to unite in the face of “evil” forces set on dividing the country.

The US state department has warned its staff in Addis Ababa to stay inside.

Ethnic violence has hit Amhara and other parts of Ethiopia in recent years.

Since his election last year, Mr Abiy has moved to end political repression by releasing political prisoners, removing bans on political parties and prosecuting officials accused of human rights abuses.

Africa’s oldest independent country, Ethiopia is also the continent’s second most populous (after Nigeria), with 102.5 million inhabitants from more than 80 different ethnic groups.

A transfer hub for long-haul air travel, it has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but a vast number of young Ethiopians are without work.

What do we know about the attacks?

Gen Seare was killed on Saturday evening at his residence along with another general, Gezai Abera, by the bodyguard who is now in custody, the prime minister’s press office says.

Gen Seare Mekonnen (TV screen grab)Image copyrightETHIOPIAN TV
Image captionGen Seare Mekonnen’s death was confirmed by TV channels

The government says it has reason to think the attack was linked to the assassination of the governor of Amhara a few hours earlier in the region’s capital, Bahir Dar.

Mr Ambachew was killed at a meeting in his office along with his senior adviser, Ezez Wasie, while the region’s attorney general was wounded.

Lake Ayalew has now been appointed as the region’s acting governor.

The prime minister’s office accused Amhara’s regional security chief, Brig-Gen Asaminew Tsige, of plotting the coup attempt. It is unclear whether he has been arrested.

Prime Minister Abiy AhmedImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPrime Minister Abiy appeared on TV wearing military fatigues

Many of those involved in the coup attempt are under arrest and operations are in progress to detain others, the PM’s press office said.

“The coup attempt in Amhara regional state is against the constitution and is intended to scupper the hard-won peace of the region,” it added.

“This illegal attempt should be condemned by all Ethiopians and the federal government has full capacity to overpower this armed group.”

The mayor of Addis Ababa, Takele Uma, has said life will resume as normal on Monday and he called on the city’s public employees to go to work as usual.

Safety and security would be maintained in the capital, he promised.

Short presentational grey line

A toxic political atmosphere

By Emmanuel Igunza, BBC Africa, Nairobi

These are tumultuous time for Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy, who is already facing increased ethnic tensions.

Chief of staff Seare Mekonnen had only served as head of the military for a year having being appointed by Mr Abiy, who made sweeping changes in the security apparatus when he took office last April.

It is clear there is still significant opposition within the military opposed to the PM’s style of leadership.

The killing of Amhara’s governor is also a big blow for Mr Abiy, who is credited with installing Ambachew Mekonnen in office.

He was a key ally in Amhara, which is itself facing security problems and clamour from some groups for greater autonomy from the central government.

The first general election since Mr Abiy came to power is supposed to be held next year, but it is very hard to see how this will go ahead in a country that is highly polarised. The atmosphere is just too toxic.

Why is Amhara so important?

The homeland of the Amhara ethnic group is the country’s second most populous region and has given Ethiopia its state language, Amharic.

Violence between the Amhara and Gumuz ethnic groups left dozens of people dead last month in Amhara and its neighbouring region, Benishangul Gumuz.

But his government has been battling growing violence and mounting pressure from regional strongmen, including in Amhara, a flash point in increasing ethnic clashes in Ethiopia.

In June 2018, an attacker dressed in a police uniform hurled a grenade at a huge rally attended by Mr. Abiy, causing a deadly explosion. Nine police officials were arrested after the attack, state media reported.

In October that year, rebellious Ethiopian soldiers seeking pay raises caused a security incident in the capital. Mr. Abiy later said that some of the soldiers who had entered the grounds of his office to confront him over the issue wanted to kill him.

He defused the situation by ordering them to do push-ups and joining in.

The latest killings come as the country gears up for a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.

Ethiopians in many parts of the country reported a disruption in internet service beginning late Saturday, although the government has not stated whether it had again cut it off. The authorities have cut off the internet several times in the past for security and other reasons.

Amhara is home to Ethiopia’s second-largest ethnic group of the same name, and their native tongue, Amharic, is also the country’s official language. The antigovernment protests that lasted three years and eventually forced Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign in 2018 had begun in the neighboring state of Oromia, but quickly spread to Amhara.

Demonstrators were angered by grievances over land rights, political and economic marginalization — issues that Mr. Abiy is now racing to address.


  1. This is more likely to be what happened:
    1. There was no coup of the regional government. It was a planned operation by the ODP government (Abiy Ahmed called “OPERATION” during his empty press briefing)
    2. The ODP government objective was to suppress the Amhara Region the same way they have suppressed the people of Addis Ababa
    3. General Asaminew Tsige has publicly confronted the ODP federal government unlike the rest of the ADP that has become a ODP’s puppet. The ODP government had to quash him in order quash resistance in the Amhara Region who were giving platform to Eskider Nega’s movement.
    4. ODP launched the operation Saturday evening likely because General Asaminew Tsige rightully opposed action against the public meeting Eskinder Nega planned in Bahir Dar for Sunday.
    5. ODP also KILLED the defense chief of staff General Seare Mekonnen because he was an obstacle and a liability to executing the operation. It also clears the position for ODP’ Birhanu Jula. Now ODP will have total control of the chain of command: PM, defence minister, chief of staff …(Note: they are telling us a nameless body guard killed him. They didn’t tell us his name because such a person doesn’t exist!)
    6. The ODP government had stated they have captured General Asaminew Tsige. Now it seems they have changed their story. It is possible that they have captured him but have or want kill him because he will be a liability if they keep him alive.
    7. ODP officials have gone to the airwaves one after the other to make people accept their story as the truth by repeating the same empty talking points again and again.

    CURRENTLY, ODP IS ETHIOPIA’S WORST ENEMY! If ODP succeeds in this operation, it will be the beginning of the end for any hope for Ethiopia.

    • Agreed completely with your assertion. Amaras must protect General Asaminew until the dust settles not to give another chance to ODP and TPLF.

  2. Dr, Abiye once again swam in Amara’s blood. This is orchestrated by TPLF and Dr. Abiye following his visit to Mekele that the well-planned assassination plot against Amara officials and the two Generals in Addis unfolded. Amara Regional securities start cleaning TPLF agents and start building civic organizations to move forward. TPLF threaten by Amara nationalist and powerfulness. General Asaminew, Dr. Ambachew and others who determined to get back Amara’s land taken by TPLF. TPLF and Dr. Abiye have been challenged by Amara political organizations for crimes committed against Amara people by Oromo regional governments, Oromo organizations, and TPLF. On the other hand, TPLF resented General Seare for his stands that Ethiopia defense force protects Ethiopia’s interest, not TPLF’s wanted him out of the picture but blame Amara for it. The General assassinated in his house along with Retired General Gezai. General Asaminew would never kill anyone including his people. The General loves his people, loves his country for this reason imprisoned over seven years while Dr. Abiye was working with TPLF in particular Melese. Dr. Abiye and TPLF have common interests, 1- weaken Amara regional government and disarm the security forces 2-Dr. Abiye able to sustain Oromo power not only in their region but in Addis 3-TPLF will never be questioned about its atrocities against Ethiopians and overtime will release imprisoned TPLFs 4-TPLF’s officials’ monies transferred internationally remain theirs and unquestioned. To do this they must start eliminating strong voices from the strongest hold, Amara regional government by assassinating Dr. Ambachew and his officials, blame and/or kill General Asaminew. Dr. Abiye and the Tigray regional government put out a great drama in front of international communities. The truth will come out. God bless Ethiopia and her people!

  3. Independent investigations including forensics and eye witness conducted not only by government bodies but also by several opposition platforms is need to clarify what actually happened. The scenarios that could have unfolded are many. The body guard who allegedly killed the generals could actually have been dead defending them if exists. The week long internet shutout before the event could have mean that the struggle in the region actually started earlier and we do not have all the information. The central government may have done back deal with the renegade general to arrest the Amhara leadership as the regional security forces receive commands from federal one and later charged with same action. It could also have been that he was defending the leadership place from surrounded federal hostile forces. Or it could have been as the central government says that the general went nuts he did what they claim he did. For that reason it is important for independent investigation formed by opposition platform to be done. Including forensics and at what exactly time the generals in Addis were shot and at what exact time the Baihdar event started. Close residents now these details. Also I assume from all the military and federal personnel that participated in the Bahirdar events in the Frontline are they aligned all to one ethnic group or not.
    Also what is the original reason on why the alleged coup leader general did as the people of his region to arm themselves. What dangers he was seeing as security top commander. It does not make any sense for a top security commander to ask the people tho arm themselves loosing state the monopoly of power to the mases unless he sees a real danger cooking against his people and cares for his people.

  4. semonun bahir dar yareke waga chemiruwal tebal !!! meknyatu ke semonu lekso gar betyayaze abiy ena lelochum yeamara neftegna meriwoch aslekashochun chemiro areke kaltetu malkes ymahonilachew stone-hearted dictators , Abiy and other yecivil service doctoroch ena muhiran .

    any way it was good day for areken katikala leminegdi. Melese zenawi yemmoteleta yebahirdar ena gojame alkachoch 50 bir lekso alkisew neber yibalal . Ahun degmo yejeneral sinit waga endemiyaweta enja hisab alawukim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.