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AU fires its security chief after Ethiopia accuses him of treason

ADDIS ABABA– The African Union has fired its chief security officer after the Ethiopian government accused him of treason and assisting the atrocities of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

This means Gebre-egziabher Mebratu Melese, who was AU’s Head of Security and Safety Services, will no longer be in office from Thursday.

A memo from the AU Commission Chief of Staff to the Acting Director for Human Resources Management, shared by AU staffers on Friday, suggested his contract be terminated and his access denied immediately, owing to the integrity and security questions hanging over him.

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Mebrato Melese had been listed among 64 TPLF party members and officials, and 32 military officers, who the Ethiopian Federal Police is now looking for to charge with treason.

A statement published by the state-affiliated FANA Broadcasting Corporation indicated there was an arrest warrant on all those on the list.

The accusations

The Ethiopian government accuses the officials of belonging to the TPLF ‘junta’, organising to attack the Ethiopian military command centre in Tigray, “dismantling the Constitution” and training and funding militia groups prohibited on Ethiopian soil.

The list included Tigray President Debretsion Gebremichael, senior TPLF officials and Ethiopian military chiefs such as Tadesse Werede Tesfaye, Yohannes Goldegiorgis Tesfay as well as police commanders.

The AU did not comment immediately on the sacking of the official, who has since been replaced by Mahamat Zene Moussa in acting capacity.

The swift nature of Melese’s firing, following a recommendation from his country, signaled just how much control the Ethiopian government has over the position.

Traditionally, the unwritten rule has been that the Ethiopian government can nominate the holder of the post and recommend his removal.

Melese, who served in the Ethiopian military before he took his job, had been the overall security official for the continental body headquartered in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia’s concerns

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Kenea Yadeta wrote to the AU advising there was evidence Melese is “not honest” to the AU and the Ethiopian government.

“The MoD [Ministry of Defence] is very concerned about this officer [and] that may jeopardise the relationship between AU and the country…” Dr Kanea wrote on November 10.

Ethiopia asked that he be repatriated within 72 hours after the letter was delivered.

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The actual acts the official committed were not revealed but his sacking comes days after the Ethiopian government launched a crackdown on TPLF leaders for committing atrocities and being “fugitives from justice.”

The list of those fingered for treason includes politicians and security chiefs mostly from the Tigray region. However, the Ethiopian government fought back claims it was targeting one ethnic community.

Redwan Hussein, the Spokesperson for the Committee on the State of Emergency in Tigray, said authorities were swooping on all suspects regardless of gender, tribe or religion.

“The rule of law enforcement operation does not target individuals based on identity as being purported,” he said, terming the accusations “exaggerated.”

“We call upon all international partners and actors to be mindful of the campaign of disinformation being carried out by the TPLF.”

About Whispers from the North

Whispers from the North is an online platform that appreciates the ecological, cultural and socio-economic diversities of Northern Kenya. We also acknowledge that the lives of the communities of northern Kenya has been shaped by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors which have led to complex challenge that calls for a multifaceted approach.

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