Police have arrested 56 members of an ethnic Ethiopian party over a failed coup in the northern Amhara region, a spokesman for the party said on Thursday.
The arrests took place in the capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday said Christian Tadele, whose National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) has become increasingly popular among the ethnic group that comprises around a quarter of Ethiopia’s population.
Ethiopia has been on edge since twin attacks at the weekend killed the army chief of staff and four other senior officials, including the president of the Amhara region.
The violence, which the government says was orchestrated by a rogue general and his state militia in Amhara, exposed how ethnic tensions are threatening the reform agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The 42-year-old has won praise abroad for opening up one of the continent’s most closed nations, but analysts say the rapid changes have fuelled uncertainty and insecurity in many parts of Africa’s second most populous nation.
As a result, ethnocentric parties like NAMA are gaining increasing support and their rhetoric is stoking serious inter-ethnic violence, global think-tank Crisis Group said this week in a briefing note.
Since its founding last year, NAMA has emerged as a rival to the Amhara party in the ruling coalition, which has held power in Ethiopia since 1991. NAMA has condemned the weekend violence and denies any link to it.
The party spokesman told Reuters that he had also received reports of arrests of Amhara people in four towns in Oromiya region. These, and the arrests of the party members, “were perpetrated against the Amharas because of their identity,” he said. He did not elaborate.
Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The prime minister’s office told Reuters it was collecting information on the arrests and would respond later.