Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed weeps for general killed in ‘coup bid’


Tuesday June 25, 2019

Many of the people at the memorial were weeping openly

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been seen weeping at a memorial for the army chief of staff who was shot dead in an alleged coup attempt on Saturday.

Gen Seare Mekonnen was reportedly assassinated by his bodyguard as part of a plot to seize power in the northern region of Amhara.

Officials say the bodyguard is being treated for his injuries, contradicting an earlier claim that he was dead.

The alleged ringleader of the coup was shot dead on Monday, police said.

Brig-Gen Asaminew Tsige was reportedly killed as he tried to escape from his hideout in Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar.

The internet has been shut across Ethiopia, after a brief resumption in service that followed an unexplained blackout lasting more than a week.

Tuesday’s memorial service took place at a large venue in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, amid tight security.

Mourners paid their respects before flag-draped coffins bearing the bodies of Gen Seare and Gen Gezai Abera, who was assassinated with him.

Mr Abiy was filmed wiping away his tears while soldiers eulogised the dead men.

In a statement on state media on Monday evening, Ethiopian federal police apologised for having earlier said that the alleged assassin, Gen Seare’s bodyguard, had killed himself.

The latest statement from the police said the bodyguard, who has not been named, was being treated for gunshot wounds in hospital. It is not clear if the injuries were self-inflicted.

Emotional scenes at memorial
Kalkidan Yibeltal, BBC Amharic, Addis Ababa

This has been a sombre ceremony full of religious and military symbolism. Priests from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church led the prayers, chanting hymns for the dead. The top brass of Ethiopia’s military would later line up, one by one, as they saluted in front of the caskets of the killed generals.

Prime Minister Abiy wept throughout the ceremony, his head in his hands. As one general broke down while paying his tributes, Mr Abiy reached out to embrace President Sahle-Work Zewde. Both were in tears. There were tributes from Gen Seare’s son and his colleagues, who all described him as a loyal servant.

Hundreds of people turned up from early morning. The majority were locked out with no space to accommodate them in the hall. After the memorial, Gen Seare’s coffin, draped in the Ethiopian flag, was flown to his birthplace in the northern region of Tigray for burial.

The attack on Gen Seare and Gen Gezai on Saturday came hours after gunmen in Bahir Dar killed the governor of Amhara, Ambachew Mekonnen, along with two senior officials.

The government described the events as a co-ordinated attempt to seize power in the northern region. State officials told local television on Monday that Brig-Gen Asaminew had been present at the killing of the governor.