Amhara Region coup d'état attempt
|2019 Amhara Region coup d'état attempt|
Factions of the Amhara Region's Peace and Security Bureau
|Commanders and leaders|
Brig. Gen. Asaminew Tsige †|
(Director of the Peace and Security Bureau)
(Prime Minister of Ethiopia)
(Minister of Defense)
Gen. Se'are Mekonnen †
(Chief of the General Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Force)
Maj. Gen. Gizae Aberra †
(Aide-de-camp to the Chief of the General Staff)
Ambachew Mekonnen †
(President of the Amhara Region)
|Casualties and losses|
|"Dozens" of fatalities|
On 22 June 2019, factions of the security forces of Amhara Region, Ethiopia attempted a coup d'état against the regional government, during which Amhara Region President Ambachew Mekonnen was assassinated. A bodyguard siding with the Amhara nationalist factions assassinated General Se'are Mekonnen, the Chief of the General Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, as well as his aide Major General Gizae Aberra. The Prime Minister's Office accused Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, head of the Amhara region security forces, of leading the plot. Asaminew was later shot dead after escaping.
Ethiopia has historically faced ethnic conflicts, and the government established a system of ethnic federalism under the 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia, establishing the Amhara Region as a subnational region where the population is predominantly made up of the Amhara people. The traditional districts of Wolkait and Raya Azebo had been part of the provinces of Begemder and Wollo respectively, but they were joined to the Tigray Region.
The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) (renamed the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP)) had been accused of "disciplining the Amhara people instead of representing them". Despite these grievances, Amhara nationalism remained a marginal force during the first two decades of the EPRDF-led order. Amhara political elites continued to place their stock in pan-Ethiopian nationalism and largely rejected ethnic self-identification in favour of a purely Ethiopian one. Accordingly, the region voted overwhelmingly for the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and United Ethiopian Democratic Forces opposition alliances in the 2005 general elections, which had run on decisively pan-Ethiopian platforms.
Abiy Ahmed's rise to power encouraged the belief that the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) was in decline and motivated Amhara nationalists to push for the "return" of the "lost" regions in the Tigray Region. This was strongly resisted under the leadership of Debretsion Gebremichael.
In March 2019, Amhara regional president Gedu Andargachew resigned for unstated reasons, but warned of the rising danger of "narrow nationalism" in his farewell speech. Ambachew Mekonnen replaced him. To this end, he appointed retired general and former political prisoner Asaminew Tsige as head of the regional security forces. Asaminew delivered an "incendiary" speech in June at the graduation of members of the security forces, reportedly full of Amhara nationalist invective.
Early in the evening of 22 June, witnesses claimed to have seen and heard explosions at the Regional Police Commission headquarters, the offices of the regional legislature and seat of the regional administration. Shortly after, observers—including the United States Embassy—reported gunfire in Addis Ababa. The Prime Minister's Office said that a "hit squad" reporting to Brigadier Genenal Asaminew Tsige, Chief of the Amhara Region Peace and Security Bureau, had burst into a meeting of the regional cabinet and opened fire. According to Reuters, the meeting's agenda concerned Asaminew's attempts to openly recruit ethnic militias.
In a statement shortly after midnight on 23 June, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that General Se'are Mekonnen, Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, had been attacked by "people in his close entourage" who had been "bought by hired elements". The next morning, Radio Dimtsi Weyane reported that Se'are and his aide Major General Gizae Aberra had died from their wounds. The Amhara Mass Media Agency likewise reported that Amhara Region President Ambachew Mekonnen had been killed along with adviser Ezez Wassie. Amharra Region Attorney General Megbaru Kebede was also seriously injured and died on 24 June.
Asaminew remained at large for 36 hours after the attempt. The state media confirmed that he was shot dead by police near Bahir Dar on 24 June, while several of his alleged co-conspirators have been detained.
Conflicting details regarding the bodyguard who assassinated General Se'are Mekonnen were given from the government. Initial reports indicated that the suspect was arrested. However, on 24 June 2019, police said the suspect had committed suicide in order to avoid arrest.
Following the coup attempt, internet access was shut down nationwide. Ethiopia remained offline two days later with no official explanation. Prime Minister Abiy called for unity against the "forces of evil" and flags flew at half-mast on Monday as the government declared a national day of mourning. The United States Embassy advised people to shelter in place, and a wide range of international leaders condemned the coup attempt.
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