Written by Staff Writer
Even as Ethiopians poured into the streets to celebrate their new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, a nation’s leader in self-imposed exile spoke out against those who took to the streets of Addis Ababa to mourn the death of his military commander.
Addressing large crowds in the Ethiopian capital on Saturday, Abiy said the death of military commander Gen. Selassie Tadesse, the head of his campaign team in last year’s elections, should not be mourned.
“You do not have to mourn the death of a war leader. Any death, like death, must be replaced,” he said. “The official news did not require that you mourn and you don’t have to mourn.”
“You should make a petition of ‘Embracing peace’.”
The rally comes after the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) became the first in Africa to abolish two decades of military rule, announcing a new constitution to end the state of emergency that was in place since a failed attempt at a coup in April.
It comes days after the former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Scott Batterson, resigned from the US President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, citing the recent change in government. The US embassy said the move was planned “for months,” Reuters reported.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Abiy’s spokesperson, Fitsum Arega, denied the government was inciting violence.
“Abiy is not making any incitement, he did not make any incitement.”
“The government is not inciting violence.”
Arega added that after Selassie was released last year from detention, he met with the prime minister privately.
In a prepared statement, Selassie said his heart was hurt by Abiy’s comment.
Selassie was one of five top military officers arrested in September after leading a failed coup during last year’s Ethiopian elections.
In his first speech as prime minister, Abiy said the five had given “wrong orders” leading to their arrests.
This prompted widespread condemnation of Selassie’s arrest from abroad, including from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Even after his release, Selassie remained in detention at Hargobind Debebe prison in eastern Ethiopia.
It is unclear if he has been released from his prison cell.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that the US Embassy issued the statement months before the Prime Minister’s takeover, and that the ambassador had not resigned, as has been suggested.