The apparent coup bid in Amhara, the second-largest of Ethiopia’s nine autonomous states, was tragic but hardly surprising. The Saturday incident, which occasioned the killing of State President Ambachew Mekonnen and national army chief Seare Mekonnen, seems to be the latest assault on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform agenda. Last year, Dr Abiy survived a grenade attack at a rally, which left two people dead.
Since rising to power in April 2018, the youthful PM has spared no effort in loosening the iron grip of a state long run by strongmen.
His bid to transition from single-party state to multiparty democracy has seen him embark on economic reforms, allow dissident groups back into the country, crack down on rights abuses and arrest dozens of top military and intelligence officers.
The PM has also sought peace with neighbours, particularly Eritrea, with whom they fought an egregious war from May 1998 to June 2000. He travelled to Sudan to reconcile the parties fighting for power following the April ouster of dictator Omar al-Bashir.
Dr Abiy’s moves have been lauded abroad, but made him many enemies at home. Particularly disenchanted are the diehard defenders of the status quo, who never envisaged the disruption of their stranglehold on power and the economy.
What Dr Abiy is doing is not only good for Ethiopia, but eastern Africa and the continent. Sandwiched between the troubled Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, and the lone-ranger Eritrea, Ethiopia’s role in regional stability cannot be overstated.
Its strategic location also makes it a critical partner in the war on global terrorism, human trafficking and such international crimes, hence, Dr Abiy’s enemies, who want to turn back the democratic tide through violence, should be dealt with ruthlessly.