The pinnacle of the African Union dismisses the safety chief after Ethiopia questions loyalty
By Giulia Paravicini
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The African Union sacked its security chief, an Ethiopian national, after the Ethiopian government accused him of infidelity to the country in its conflict with a troubled region that threatens to destabilize the Horn of Africa.
The office of the block chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, ordered Gebreegziabher Mebratu Melese’s dismissal in a November 11 memo, audited by Reuters. The order came after a letter from the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense dated November 10th expressing concern about his loyalty.
An African Union official confirmed the authenticity of the two letters to Reuters. The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Air strikes and ground fighting between Ethiopian forces and local forces in the northern Tigray region have killed hundreds, sparked ethnic tensions and sent refugees to neighboring Sudan.
The conflict began on November 4 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive after accusing Tigray’s leader of ordering an attack on a Bundeswehr base and defying his authority.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense quoted the conflict in its letter to the AU, describing Gebreegziabher as a “major general”. It was said that he was not obliged to either the AU or the Ethiopian government.
It was not immediately possible to confirm Gebreegziabher’s ethnicity.
The government said Thursday that it had arrested around 150 150 “criminal” activists from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the capital Addis Ababa and elsewhere on suspicion of planning “terrorist attacks”.
“Ethnically targeted measures, hate speech and allegations of atrocities in Ethiopia are deeply worrying,” the European Union said in a statement on Thursday.
Ethiopia is home to the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. According to the AU, almost 4,400 Ethiopian troops are currently deployed in the peacekeeping force of the bloc in Somalia.
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