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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief

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Ethiopia, on Tuesday held a memorial for the slain Army Chief of Staff with four other senior officials in the attacks that posed the biggest threat to the Prime Minister’s reforms.

The coffins of army chief of staff, Seare Mekonnen, and a retired general, both shot dead on Saturday by Mekonnen’s bodyguard in Addis Ababa, were wheeled into the hall, draped in Ethiopian flags.

Photographs of the men in formal military dress were adorned with yellow roses.

Mekonnen will be buried in his home region of Tigray on Wednesday.

In addition to the killing of the chief of staff in the capital, Amhara State President, Ambachew Mekonnen and an adviser, were killed in the region’s main city Bahir Dar.

The attacks 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, the alleged coup plotter, was shot on Monday near Bahir Dar, according to the prime minister’s office.

Abiy Ahmed, who survived a grenade attack at a rally sat in the front row at the memorial and wiped tears from his eyes with a white handkerchief.

His government is struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.

The foiled plot to seize control of the northern Amhara region and the assassinations in Addis Ababa underscored the threat of spiralling violence in Africa’s second-most populous nation.

However, hundreds of soldiers and officers in uniform gathered for the ceremony in a huge hall in central Addis Ababa.

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

The weekend killings came as Ethiopia prepares to hold parliamentary elections next year, although the electoral board warned, this month, that they were behind schedule and that instability could delay polling.

Ethiopia analysts say the prime minister must also tread carefully as he tries to restore security, adding that a strong response risks derailing his reforms and angering a polarised population.

Mehari Taddele Maru, an independent Ethiopian analyst, said the government should channel public anger through dialogue, but if ethnic rivalries spread to the federal armed forces, that could destroy the state, he said.

Reuters/NAN

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