Ethiopia holds memorial for slain military chief

A man reads a newspaper with the pictures of Amhara state President Ambachew Mekonnen (left), killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar, and of Army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen, who was shot by his bodyguard, on a street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
A man reads a newspaper with the pictures of Amhara state President Ambachew Mekonnen (left), killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar, and of Army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen, who was shot by his bodyguard, on a street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 24, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

ADDIS ABABA (REUTERS) - Ethiopia held a memorial on Tuesday (June 25) for the army chief of staff slain at the weekend along with four other senior officials as part of what the authorities describe as a foiled plot to seize control of Amhara region.

Hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for a ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa.

Roads in the capital were blocked for the ceremony and security was tight. Access to the Internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia for the third straight day, users reported.

The coffins of army chief of staff Seare Mekonnen and a retired general, both shot dead last Saturday by Seare's bodyguard in the national capital Adis Abeba, were wheeled into the hall, draped in Ethiopian flags.

Photographs of the men in formal military dress were adorned with yellow roses. Seare will be buried in his home region of Amhara on Wednesday.

The violence underscores the tenuous grip of the federal government on spiralling ethnic violence in Africa's second-most populous nation.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed walked into the hall, sat down, and bowed his head, appearing grief-stricken, while other dignitaries and officials from the country's Orthodox church arrived.

 

Saturday's violence unfolded in two separate attacks. They were led by Amhara's head of state security General Asamnew Tsige, who had been openly recruiting fighters for ethnic militias in a state that has become a flashpoint for violence.

Asamnew was shot on Monday near Amhara's capital Bahir Dar, the prime minister's press secretary told Reuters.

In addition to the assassinations in the capital, Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser were killed in the region's main city Bahir Dar.

The killings are the biggest challenge yet to sweeping political and economic reforms that the 42-year-old prime minister kick-started after he took power in the Horn of Africa country in April 2018.