Ethiopia’s Amhara state chief killed amid regional coup attempt

The president of Ethiopia‘s Amhara region and his top adviser were killed in an attempted coup in which the country’s army chief was also shot dead, the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said.

Spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told journalists a “hit squad” led by Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige burst into a meeting in the state offices of Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar, on Saturday and shot regional government President Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser Ezez Wassie.

The men were “gravely injured in the attack and later died of their wounds,” she said.

“Several hours later, in what seems like a coordinated attack, the chief of the staff of the national security forces Seare Mekonnen was killed in his home by his bodyguard in Addis Ababa.”

Also shot dead was a retired general who had been visiting him, Billene added.

The bodyguard has been apprehended while Asaminew is still on the loose, sources said.

Al Jazeera’s Leah Harding, reporting from Addis Ababa, said Abiy called those responsible “mercenaries”.

“The army intelligence general said the coup was meant to create chaos and division in the military. He said the military now has control over the situation … and he reiterated that there are no divisions within the military,” Harding reported.

“This is particularly important because the two generals that were killed in Addis Ababa are part of the Tigre ethnic group, and the person who we believe is responsible for the coup plot is part of the Amhara group.”

Analysts said the incident showed the seriousness of the political crisis in Ethiopia, where efforts by Abiy to loosen the iron-fisted grip of his predecessors and push through reforms have unleashed a wave of unrest.

“These tragic incidents, unfortunately, demonstrate the depth of Ethiopia’s political crisis,” said International Crisis Group analyst William Davison.

“It is now critical that actors across the country do not worsen the instability by reacting violently or trying to exploit this unfolding situation for their own political ends,” the expert said.

Ethiopia unrest
Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed condemned the unrest in an appearance on state television [Reuters]

Residents of Bahir Dar said late on Saturday there was gunfire in some neighbourhoods and some roads had been closed off.

The US embassy issued alerts about reported gunfire in Addis Ababa and violence around Bahir Dar.

Travel – State Dept

@TravelGov

#Ethiopia: The U.S Embassy is aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa. Chief of Mission personnel are advised to shelter in place. http://ow.ly/kcLf50uKB0w 

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Early on Sunday, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.”

Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms to open up the once isolated, security-obsessed Horn of Africa country of 100 million people.

He has released political prisoners, lifted bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence.

Ethnic bloodshed – long held in check by the state’s iron grip – has flared up in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government was led by Ambachew Mekonnen.

“Since Abiy Ahmed took power and the country moved towards democratisation … there have been different forms of mobilisations, by different actors, particularly nationalists.” Awol Allo, a lecturer in law at Keele University, told Al Jazeera.

“[In] Amhara regional state, there is this feeling that they were marginalised, and these individuals that were suspected to be behind the coup recently said that Amhara people have never been subordinated.. so there is this sense of grievance and victimhood that is driving the nationalist movements,” he added.

Ethiopia is due to hold a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.

Ethiopia map

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Turkey’s opposition set to win rerun of Istanbul’s mayoral vote

AK Party’s candidate concedes defeat after initial results show CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu leading with 53.69 percent.

by Tessa Fox

Supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), celebrate in Istanbul, Turkey [Cansu Alkaya/Reuters]
Supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), celebrate in Istanbul, Turkey [Cansu Alkaya/Reuters]

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) candidate in the controversial rerun of Istanbul’s mayoral election has conceded defeat after initial results showed the opposition leading the vote.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said on Sunday that the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu was leading with 53.69 percent of the vote, compared with AK Party’s Binali Yildirim’s 45.4 percent, with more than 95 percent of ballots counted.

“According to the result as of now, my competitor Ekrem Imamoglu is leading the race. I congratulate him and wish him good luck,” Yildirim said. 

CHP’s win in the Istanbul election ends the 17 year rule by the AK Party in Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub.

The Istanbul mayoral election was first held on March 31, when Imamoglu secured 48.8 percent of the vote, while the AK Party’s Yildirim held 48.55 percent, granting Imamoglu the title of mayor with a razor-thin margin.

The AK Party proceeded to file an ‘extraordinary objection’ to the results, leading the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) to annul the results and schedule Sunday’s rerun.

Not just a local election

The Istanbul election has become far bigger than any local vote, as the rerun put into question the country’s democracy and threatened the AK Party’s stronghold on power over the last two decades.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who served as Istanbul’s mayor in the 1990s – has famously said: “whoever loses Istanbul loses Turkey.

Erdogan cast his vote on Sunday amid high security in Uskudar, a predominately conservative district on the city’s Asian side.

Bilkent University Assistant Professor of International Relations, Berk Esen, described it as being a “major personal blow for Erdogan.

“It has marked the beginning of the end for the Turkish style presidency and become difficult for the AKP machine to sustain itself without the corrupt use of Istanbul resources,” he said.

After AK Party mayoral candidate Yildirim cast his vote today he addressed a gathered crowd with a statement seemingly pointing to the pressure felt by his party.

“If we ever made any wrongdoing to any rival or brother in Istanbul, I would like to ask for their forgiveness and blessing,” Yildirim expressed.

Voting in Beylikduzu in west Istanbul, CHP’s Imamoglu said Istanbul will vote with the rule of law, justice and democracy at the forefront of their minds.

“In the name of our democracy, in the name of Istanbul and in the name of legitimacy of all future elections of our country, today my people will make the most accurate decision,” Imamoglu said.

Countering counting irregularities

To ensure no “illegal wrongdoings” were made in Istanbul’s mayoral rerun, various independent mechanisms have been erected in order to monitor the voting and counting process.

For example, at the call of CHP, lawyers from across Turkey volunteered their time to travel to Istanbul in order to counter election fraud.

One lawyer was appointed to each voting booth erected in nearly 2,000 polling stations across the city.

Esen told Al Jazeera this is a very important for Turkish politics, as the vote counting process has not been very accurate and fair in previous elections.

It’s important for the opposition party to organise and mobilise supporters not only to come out and vote but also observe the counting process to make sure no votes will be stolen,” Esen said.

“Lawyers … would be able to make sure that the ruling party will not be able to cancel the result on a mere technicality.”

Since the state-run Anadolu Agency became the outlet to distribute live election results to the media in 2014, the voluntary Vote and Beyond (Oy ve Otesi) organisation has been trying to ensure “transparent and accountable elections.”

After controversy surrounded Anadolu Agency’s release of data in the March 31 election, in which is ceased broadcasting at 11pm when Imamoglu came into the lead, Vote and Beyond launched a new mobile application to post live updates.

The data is sourced from volunteers at each polling station recording “minutes” of the counts.

A group of citizen journalists who founded the group Dokuz8, also in 2014, have also released live updates of the vote counting.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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