President A. Ahmed
(TriceEdneyWire.com/GIN) – Rebel gunmen launched a coordinated assault over the weekend in the Ethiopian state of Amhara in a challenge to President Abiy Ahmed and his sweeping reform program.
Several senior government officials died in the assault including the army chief and the governor of Amhara state. Mr. Ahmed rushed to the region and, wearing army fatigues, condemned the coup plot.
“This illegal attempt should be condemned by all Ethiopians, he said. The federal government has full capacity to overthrown this armed group.”
Efforts by Mr. Ahmed to loosen the iron-fisted grip of his predecessors and push through reforms have unleashed a wave of unrest that has displaced around 2.4 million people, according to the United Nations. Since rising to power last year, Mr. Ahmed, a former intelligence officer has sought to deliver shock therapy to one of the world’s most entrenched one-party systems.
He has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties, prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, and re-established relations with neighboring Eritrea. Mr. Ahmed also has pledged to liberalize Ethiopia’s tightly controlled economy and partly privatize state-owned enterprises, including Ethiopian Airlines, one of the world’s fastest-growing carriers. But the prime minister’s reform agenda has created powerful enemies, including the longtime old guard he pushed aside to gain power.
The premier has delivered many of his speeches behind bulletproof glass after surviving an assassination attempt last year. Last year, Mr. Ahmed said hundreds of soldiers had marched to the office to demand a pay rise had wanted to kill him. US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Tibor Nagy, noted this week in Pretoria that these were not the first attempts by the old guard to torpedo Abiy’s radical changes, and would probably not be the last.
He linked the latest violent attacks to rising ethnic pressures suppressed by the previous autocratic regime and now released by Abiy’s efforts to liberalize Ethiopia’s politics.