November 16, 2006
Finfinne- the government-owned Ethiopian Television last night reported that three generals of the Ethiopian Army, Major General Alemshet Degife (Oromo), Brigadiers Kumera (Oromo) and Asaminew Tsige (Amhara), are suspended from their duties.
Although the announcement was made by the Defense Council, at the Ministry of Defense, the instruction is said to come right from the Prime Minister himself.
Major General Alemshet has been the Chief of the Air force. He was assigned this force after a similar purge in 2001 following the division within the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the dominant party within the rump EPRDF.
After the defection of other senior military commanders, the Ethiopian Prime Minister is facing strong upheaval from the armed force. Analysts believe that after the defection and dismissal of so many senior officers, maintaining control over the army will be highly problematic.
Before coming to power in 1991, the TPLF manufactured PDOs to give a more multinational image. Lately this ruse is falling apart and the EPRDF, the ruling coalition, is increasingly being reduced to its Tigrean core with the defection, resignation, arrest and disappearance of several Oromo and Amhara dignitaries.
The Oromo and the Amhara make up close to 65% of the Ethiopian army. Although the Tigrean component is disproportionately represented at the high brass, the fighting force is mainly Oromo and Amhara.
The current rounds of purges are likely to intensify rather than dampen tension within the armed forces. An aura of suspicion has already building since the defection of Brigadier General Kamal Galchu, one of the army’s most decorated soldiers. General Galchu was accompanied by Colonel Abebe Garesu along with over 600 soldiers and officers of different ranks. Even though the BBC had reported only 150 and Ethiotribune has been able to confirm through its sources that the actual number was 600. Later they were joined by Brigadier General Hailu Ayana and Colonel Gammachu Ayana.
What is apparent from the purges and defections, both civilian and military, is that people think the EPRDF ship is sinking and want to jump before it runs aground. This is reminiscent and by far worse than the last days of the Dergue regime. With continuing anti-government protests throughout Oromia, tension in the capital and many northern regions, armed confrontation in Ogaden, the standoff with Somalia, and the tension on the border with Eritrea, grave danger hovers over the future of the Ethiopian regime.