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Abiy Ahmed: Protesting Ethiopian soldiers wanted to kill me - BBC

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said that some of the soldiers who entered the grounds of his office last week had wanted to kill him.

At the time, he defused the situation by ordering them to do press-ups and joining in.

Mr Abiy and the soldiers were seen laughing but he told parliament that “inside I was very unhappy”.

Over the past six months, he has made some major reforms and he said some of the troops wanted to derail them.

“The march of some members of the army to the National Palace [the prime minister’s office] was not only unlawful but very dangerous, because the intention was to abort the ongoing reforms,” Mr Abiy told MPs during a question-and-answer session.

“Meanwhile, after the situation was brought under control, some forces were heard saying: ‘He escaped before we could kill him.'”

Abiy’s two reactions

Elias Hordofa, BBC Afaan Oromoo

Abiy AhmedImage copyrightREUTERS

Many have been surprised by the fact that the prime minister’s comments this week are quite different to how he responded last week to the incident.

Then he was seen laughing and smiling, but he has revealed in parliament that he was “angry and frustrated”.

He said he feared that a conflict would break out as “young people… were marching towards [Addis Ababa] to engage in war”.

On the other hand, there is an awareness that there are some who not happy with his reforms.

The prime minister has in the past mentioned “forces” who do not agree with the changes that he is making.

He used this term when talking about another alleged attempt on his life and also when describing outbreaks of ethnic violence in different parts of the country.

Alarming situation

On 10 October, several hundred protesting soldiers, some of them armed, went to see the prime minister – reportedly to demand a pay rise.

The situation caused alarm, leading to road closures in the area and the internet to be shut off for hours.

Speaking to MPs on Thursday, Mr Abiy said that without the order to do the press-ups, “the whole issue would have escalated… Some people see the push-ups we did as very casual. But, we used it to pacify the situation.

“In the military, push-ups or doing some kind of exercise or talking loudly are some of the measures used to relieve grievances or emotions.”


Abiy’s rapid pace of reform

  • 2 April – becomes prime minister after unexpected resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn
  • 19 April – replaces the head of the police and internal security
  • May – frees thousands of political detainees, including opposition leader Andargachew Tsege
  • 5 June – lifts state of emergency two months early
  • 5 June – agrees to accept border ruling giving disputed territory to Eritrea
  • 9 July – alongside the Eritrean president declares the end of war between the two countries
  • 11 September – reopens land border with Eritrea
  • 16 October – appoints women to half of ministerial posts


Filed in: Current Affairs / News