The recent incident and the inconsistent explanations offered put the credibility of the Prime Minister on the line. It might be hard to accept this for the zealot supporters of him but indulge me for a moment and think it through.
What is a coup d’état?
A coup, or more formally, a coup d’état, is defined as a seizure of a state power by members of the military, or other figures high-up in a national government. Some of the more notable examples from modern history include Napoleon Bonaparte’s overthrow of the French government in 1799; dictator Francisco Franco’s fascist takeover of Spain in 1936; and even the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 by Mengistu and his friends.
Political scientists subscribe to three types of coup, as defined by Samuel P. Huntington in his 1968 book Political Order in Changing Societies.
- The Breakthrough Coup
The breakthrough coup is your garden-variety takeover: a revolutionary group—civilian, military, or consisting of political opposition—overthrows the seated government and names themselves the new leaders.
- The Guardian Coup
A guardian coup occurs when one elite seizes power from another elite—think an army general unseating a president or king—usually justifying the action by saying it’s for the broader good of the nation.
- The Veto Coup
A veto coup tends to occur when the military intervenes to protect a status quo from radical political change.
What are the chances that Dr Abiy’s Premiership could be brought to a halt by a coup? Given the fledgling nature of our ‘democracy’, the idea is not far-fetched. So, yes it could happen.
Yet, the events of that morning are unclear, confusing and contradictory, and the information that has been revealed so far is conflicting and hardly believable.
The young soldiers just walked into the Palace, so we were told, to ask the PM for a raise and improvement in their working conditions. The media and others interpreted the event as an attempted coup, but the PM assured the nation that was not the case and that he had a fruitful discussion with them and concluded with a footage of both the PM and the young soldiers doing ‘pushups. The Army Chief of Staff echoed the same sentiment. So far so good!
Could this be believable? I would argue yes. The leadership style of the PM is very different from his predecessors. He seems very approachable in all his dealings. For God’s sake, he even got out of a car to greet the people while President Isaias was visiting. So, it is possible that these young soldiers might feel it is okay to directly go to him, by-passing the chain of command. Granted, this also shows a dangerous sign of break down within the military.
A few days later, however, the PM gave a completely different explanation about the event. Listening to the Dr. Abiy’s speech about the incident, I have no option but to simply agree with Shakespeare and say, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. This was a line from the play Hamlet, by Shakespeare. The words were uttered by an officer of the palace guard after the ghost of the dead king appears, walking over the palace walls.
The same can be said about the ‘Addis Ababa ‘attempted coup d’état’. If indeed the was an attempted coup d’état, as the PM wanted us to believe, that coup was an amateurish effort at best and fizzled out quickly with a ‘push up’ exercise. Very few details have yet emerged about the ‘coup’, as the government has kept a tight lid on information. What we do know, however, raises a great number of suspicions.
Why did it take the Prime Minister days to tell this supposedly ‘true story’ when by his own admission, he knew all along the event was a coup (“በላይ እየሳቅሁ በውስጤ ግን እርር ድብን እያልኩ” )? How could the Ethiopian people be expected to believe anything this Prime Minster say?
What is more, the reasoning he gave about his smiling, the pushups, and the ‘take-it-easy’ demeanor is even more alarming. “መንግሥታችን ተነካ ብለው የቡራዩ፣ የሰበታና የለገጣፎ ወጣቶች …” ወደ አራት ኪሎ ቤተ መንግሥት እየተመሙ በመምጣታቸው ወይም ሊመጡ በዝግጅት ላይ በመሆናቸው…”. He did all the theatrical acts to spare the nation from an impending civil war. Are we really expected to believe this?
Who are the intended audience of this assertion? Is it only the youths of ቡራዩ, ሰበታ and ለገጣፎ who consider the government as theirs? How about the citizens of Addis Ababa? Are they not physically closer to the Palace than the surrounding areas of ቡራዩ፣ ሰበታና ለገጣፎ? Or is it only the ‘Oromos’ who consider Dr. Abiy’s government as theirs? This is not something that can bring unity.
Not only the PM has put his own credibility on the line but left us with more questions than answers! caveat ēmptor! Buyer beware!