Ethiopian army chief, regional president killed in unrest

Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy announced there had been an attempted coup in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar. (AFP)
Updated 23 June 2019

Ethiopian army chief, regional president killed in unrest

  • The government said there had been a failed coup attempt against the head of regional government in Amhara
  • The developments underscore the challenges facing the Horn of Africa nation's new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed

ADDIS ABABA: At least two senior Ethiopian officials were killed during an attempt by an army general to seize power in Ethiopia’s northern state of Amhara, state television reported on Sunday.

Speaking on state television late on Saturday, Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy announced there had been an attempted coup in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar earlier that day and that Ethiopia’s Chief of Staff General Seare Mekonnen was among the casualties.

“He was shot by people who are close to him,” Abiy said. According to Abiy, regional government officials were in a meeting when a coup attempt occurred.

It was unclear whether Seare had survived. Both the head of Amhara’s regional government, Ambachew Mekonnen, and his adviser, were killed, state media reported early Sunday. The coup attempt was orchstrated by General Asamnew Tsige, the region’s head of security, state media reported.

Abiy said Seare had been shot while trying to fend off the attackers. The prime minister’s press secretary, Billene Seyoum, told Reuters later that it was unclear whether General Seare had been killed or wounded but a regional television broadcaster reported Seare had been killed, alongside another senior military official, Gize Abera.

Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms in the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people where years of political violence led to the resignation of Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence.

Ethnic bloodshed — long held in check by the state’s iron grip — has flared up in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government is led by Ambachew Mekonnen.

“There are a few people who were killed while others were injured,” Abiy said.

The US Embassy said on Saturday that it was aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa, and some residents told Reuters about hearing six shots ring out in a suburb near the country’s Bole International Airport around 9:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.

“Chief of Mission personnel are advised to shelter in place,” the Embassy said on its website.

People in many parts of Ethiopia reported being unable to access the Internet beginning late Saturday although the government has not stated whether it had cut it off. Authorities have cut off the Internet several times in the past for security and other reasons.

Early on Sunday, Brig. Gen. Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.”

Residents in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar said late on Saturday there was gunfire in some neighborhoods and some roads had been closed off.

Ethiopia is due to hold a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.

Peaceful, prosperous, strong Bangladesh in Pakistan's interest, says envoy

Updated 11 min 21 sec ago

Peaceful, prosperous, strong Bangladesh in Pakistan's interest, says envoy

  • Pakistan's high commissioner to Bangladesh says more people-to-people contact necessary

DHAKA: Islamabad wants to enhance “people-to-people” contacts with Dhaka and boost bilateral relations in the areas of trade, business, education, culture and sports, Pakistan’s high commissioner to Bangladesh told Arab News on Thursday.
Imran Ahmed Siddiqui arrived in Dhaka this month after being appointed to the role in November, filling a post that had been vacant for nearly 20 months.
“In addition to government-to-government ties, my endeavor will be to promote and strengthen people-to-people contact as well as bilateral, economic, trade and cultural ties between our two countries,” Siddiqui said. He added that he had sensed a “similar desire among the people and the government of Bangladesh.”
At the end of British colonial rule of India in 1947, the territory of what is now Bangladesh became East Pakistan, politically united with West Pakistan but separated from it by hundreds of kilometers of Indian land.
East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh after a war between India and Pakistan in 1971 that killed nearly 3 million people. Relations between Islamabad and Dhaka have remained frosty since.
In 2019, Bangladesh imported goods worth around $736 million from Pakistan, while the country’s export volume was around $44 million, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.
Siddiqui said: “There’s huge potential that still remains to be explored and tapped. We have to work in partnership to facilitate frequent productive engagements between our commercial sectors, including robust participation in each other’s trade exhibitions and shows, and closer collaboration between the chambers of commerce and industry.”
The two countries also need to work together to address issues relating to their business visa regimes, he added.
“While Pakistan has already upgraded Bangladesh to Visa Category A, a similar measure by the Bangladesh government could help promote frequent interaction between our business communities, which is a prerequisite for strong trade relations,” Siddiqui said.
The Bangladeshi cricket team is currently playing a three-match T20 series against Pakistan at Gaddafi Stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The third match of the series will be played next Monday.
Siddiqui said the Bangladeshi cricket team’s Pakistan tour is the beginning of a new era of friendship between the two nations. It will enable them “to further promote constructive bilateral engagements at all levels,” he added.
“I believe this cricket series will look more like a sporting event between two brothers and friends, rather than a fight between two rivals,” he said.
“This visit will generate mutual goodwill and friendliness, and will bring our two nations even closer.”
Siddiqui expressed appreciation for the “hospitality” of the Bangladeshi government toward more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state after a military-led crackdown in August 2017 that the UN has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.” Myanmar denies this.
Siddiqui said Pakistan is “constructively engaged” with different international organizations on the issue of Rohingya refugees, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“We’ve noted with appreciation the hospitality offered by the Bangladesh government to a large number of refugees, as we ourselves have been sheltering, in the recent past, the highest number of refugees in the world,” he added, referring to Pakistan’s large population of Afghan refugees.
“We support all efforts for the return of refugees in safety and dignity. Pakistan is closely monitoring international developments in this regard, and will remain engaged in the future too.”
He said Pakistan views Bangladesh with “respect, affection and admiration,” adding that “a peaceful, prosperous and strong Bangladesh is in our interest.”