Ethiopia released a recording of the state militia commander it says led a failed coup attempt last week in which dozens, including five top officials, were killed.
A state militia commanded by Brigadier General Asamnew Tsige attacked government buildings in Bahir Dar, state capital of Ethiopia’s Amhara region on June 22.
Asamnew, killed in a shoot-out last Monday, felt central government was not doing enough for the Amhara people, who are embroiled in border disputes with other regions and tit-for-tat killings with other ethnic groups.
The violence on June 22 was followed by over 250 arrests, potentially deepening resentment against national authorities in the Horn of Africa nation.
The prime minister’s press office said the recording was of a phone conversation between Asamnew and head of the state-run Amhara Mass Media Agency. Reuters was not able to independently verify its authenticity.
“Don’t be scared. Tell the people of the region especially Bahir Dar to stay in their homes and tell regional security and the militia to remain calm,” a voice identified as Asamnew’s said.
“We have taken measures against the leaders because the regional ruling party leaders sabotaged the peoples’ demands,” he said.
Amhara, home to Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group, is controlled by the Amhara Democratic Party, part of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition.
Ethnic violence spiked since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power in April 2018 and rolled out reforms, unbanned political parties, released political prisoners and welcoming home exiled rebel groups.
Loosening the state’s grip won him applause abroad but empowered local powerbrokers winning support by demanding more power and resources for their own groups.
On the same night Asamnew’s forces launched their attacks, the chief of the army staff and another general were killed in a separate attack in Addis Ababa.
Authorities previously said the attacks were part of the same plot but later said a task force including federal police and national intelligence is investigating whether the two are linked.