Abiy's reforms embolden Ethiopian regionalists.

Author:Collins, Tom
Position:Ethiopia - Abiy Ahmed
 
FREE EXCERPT

Recent unrest in Ethiopia's Amhara region raises the spectre of further conflict as hardline ethno-nationalists spot an opening in the more relaxed political atmosphere under prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Tom Collins reports

In June, Ethiopia, which has been on a path of democratic reform since prime minister Abiy Ahmed came to power last year, was rocked by two fatal attacks within a few hours, one in the Amhara regional capital of Bahir Dar and the other in the federal capital of Addis Ababa, in the most significant challenge to the country's new era yet.

In what the government described as a coup led by regional security chief Asaminew Tsige, Amhara president Ambachew Mekonnen was killed. In Addis Ababa, the chief of staff of the national security forces, Seare Mekonnen, was fatally shot by his bodyguard.

Asaminew, an Amhara nationalist who recently returned to mainstream politics, was identified by the government as the mastermind behind the plot and was killed while fleeing the scene in Bahir Dar, according to the government. Asaminew was alleged to be training local ethnic militia and was said to have links to the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA), a party created last year to lobby for the interests of the country's second-largest ethnic group.

In the days after the attack, up to 2,000 people are rumoured to have been arrested, including many from the NaMA party-, which has denied any links to the violence.

The unrest brings to light the possibility of insecurity and ethno-nationalism in Ethiopia's nine federal regions, which are organfsed largely on ethno-linguistic lines, as Abiy, the country's first Oromo prime minister, steers Ethiopia away from the rule of the Tigray minority who have been dominant for almost three decades.

Amhara nationalism

Amhara, a proud region which constitutes the historic core of the Ethiopian state, was initially supportive of Abiy. However, enthusiasm seems to be on the wane and grassroots support for Amhara nationalism is increasing.

While Amhara grievances developed under the leadership of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), previously the dominant force in the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), reforms introduced under Abiy have allowed these grudges to come to the fore. The Oromo and Amhara people combined make up 61% of Ethiopia's population in 2019, while the Tigrays account for around 6%.

Bronwyn Bruton, deputy Africa director at the Atlantic Council...

To continue reading

REQUEST YOUR TRIAL