Ethiopian soldiers marched with “nefarious aims”


Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said soldiers who marched on his palace last week had “nefarious aims” to stop reforms and defended his relaxed attitude to them at the time saying he sought to defuse tensions.

Several hundred armed soldiers descended on the palace on October 10 and met Abiy in what the government initially said was a bid for a rise in pay.

State television subsequently showed the 42-year old leader doing push-ups with smiling men in fatigues and red berets, some of who took photos on mobile phones.
“The approach taken by the soldiers was not only unconstitutional and dangerous, the intent was to abort reforms,” Abiy told lawmakers in an address to parliament in which he gave details of the incident.
“Five to 10 people with nefarious aims” instructed the soldiers, he added.

He gave no further details of the alleged instigators but said he physically exercised with the soldiers to defuse tensions.
“Had we not taken a cautious approach, it could have led to a dangerous situation. All this took place without a single bullet being fired and a single loss of life,” he said, adding unspecified forces “regretted missing out on the opportunity to kill” him.

Since his appointment in April, Abiy has presided over reforms that have turned the region’s politics on its head, including pardoning dissidents outlawed by the government.

He acknowledged and condemned abuses by security forces, likening it to state terrorism.

His actions have failed to curb violence that pitted different ethnic groups against each other. About 2.2 million people out of a population of 100 million have been displaced since last year.

In June, a grenade attack attended by tens of thousands of his supporters rattled a rally moments after he finished giving a speech, killing two people.

In recent months, thousands were arrested on suspicion of involvement in violence in the capital and its outskirts that left dozens of people dead.

State-run media said nearly 1,200 young men were released this weel having spent weeks in detention.
“Lawlessness is the norm these days. It is something testing the government,” Abiy said in parliament. “Unless we collaborate and work hand-in-hand, we may not exist as a country anymore.”