Ethiopia activists to declare new federal state

A group of youth activists and opposition politicians in Ethiopia have agreed to go ahead and declare the southern region of Sidama as a separate federal state within the country.

The declaration is due to happen on Wednesday.

Sidama is currently part of the multi-ethnic Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR).

The activists' move could aggravate regional tensions within Ethiopia which are threatening the unity of the country. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said there would be military action if it goes ahead.

The Sidama activists met with with elders in Hawasa on Sunday.

People voting at an outdoor meeting
Sidama Page
Young activists and elders met to discuss the declaration of Sidama as a federal state

SNNPR's governing party - which is part of Ethiopia's ruling coalition - is currently meeting to decide what it should do about the Sidama declaration.

Wednesday marks a year since SNNPR's parliament accepted that there should be a referendum on Sidama's future. According to the constitution, the vote should have happened within the last 12 months.

But Mr Abiy has urged people to be patient saying that changes in the election board need to happen before the referendum can take place.

War of words hits Ethiopia's governing coalition

Ethiopia's Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) has hit back at the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in a war of words that is threatening the future of the country's governing coalition.

The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is made up of four parties, including the ADP and TPLF.

On Wednesday evening, the TPLF accused its partner of "working with chauvinist forces" and "spoiling the security of the region", in a statement it released after an urgent central committee meeting.

The party was referring to last month's killing of the governor of Amhara region, Ambachew Mekonen, and two other officials, who were members of the ADP, in what the authorities have described as an attempted coup in the region.

"The ADP has to look into its fragile internal situation, assess the killings of officials and make a public apology accordingly," the TPLF said.

On Thursday evening, the ADP hit back, saying it would not apologise, and adding that the TPLF's demand was "upsetting".

When it came to insecurity, the ADP blamed the TPLF for the problems. "They should have supported us during this challenging time. The TPLF will never change from its corrupt way of politics," the party added in a post of Facebook.

This row is threatening the unity of Ethiopia's governing coalition, analysts told the BBC Tigrinya service.

Ethiopia's governing coalition under strain

One of the parties in Ethiopia's governing coalition, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has unleashed damning criticism of one of its coalition partners, reports BBC Tigrinya's Yemane Nagish.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front, once seen as the coalition's dominant party, accused the Amhara Democratic Party of "working with chauvinist forces" and "spoiling the security of the region", in a statement it released after an urgent central committee meeting.

"At the moment, the unity of the nation is endangered by chauvinist forces from here and there. The ADP has been a fertile ground for this," the statement reads.

The TPLF was referring to last month's killing of the governor of Amhara region, Ambachew Mekonen, and two other officials, who were members of the ADP, in what the authorities have described as an attempted coup.

Brig Gen Asaminew Tsige
Brig Gen Asaminew Tsige, who was shot by police, was alleged to be the ringleader of the attempted coup

Two generals, including the army chief of staff, were also killed in the capital, Addis Ababa, on the same day.

The alleged coup ringleader, Brig Gen Asaminew Tsige, was also a member of the ADP.

"The ADP has to look into its fragile internal situation, assess the killings of officials and make a public apology accordingly.

"Otherwise, it will be difficult for the TPLF to further continue working together and struggle with ADP," the statement warned.

Since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister last year, the TPLF has felt increasingly marginalised in the governing coalition.

Ethiopia's economy gets warning over political tensions

Emmanuel Igunza

BBC Africa, Nairobi

Credit rating agency Moody’s has warned that political tensions in Ethiopia could greatly impact the country’s economic growth.

Moody’s said that last month’s alleged failed coup attempt in Amhara state was an example of how the country’s economy is susceptible to domestic political risks.

“Risks are unlikely to dissipate in the run-up to elections scheduled for 2020, as the government's reform agenda risks exacerbating ethnic tensions in some parts of the country,” said Moody's Kelvin Dalrymple.

He warned that the tensions could have a direct impact on investor confidence.

Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. This week the government predicted that the economy would grow by 9.2%, a 1.5 percentage points higher than last year.

Ethiopia street scene
Ethiopia's economy has been booming in recent years

Addis Ababa to give pupils free uniforms

The authorities in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, have announced that they will provide free uniforms and free exercise books to all pupils in state funded schools from September at a cost of $10.4m (£8.4m).

There are 600,000 pupils who will benefit, the authorities say.

Currently tuition is free but parents must pay for the uniforms and exercise books. This amounts to an estimated $17 per pupil, a cost that is difficult to meet for some families.

Four sets of uniforms will be designed, one for children in kindergarten, one for those in grades one to four, one for grades five to eight and one for grades nine to 12.

Addis Ababa motorbike ban begins

A motorbike ban aimed at curbing crime has come into effect in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

It was announced last month, with city mayor Takele Uma saying that a large number of crimes were being carried out by people on motorbikes.

At the time Mr Takele said that exceptions would be made for people using the vehicles for business, but there seems to be some confusion.

One food delivery company has suspended its services while it works out what is happening:

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Last month, another company announced on Facebook that the authorities had begun seizing motorbikes and it was suspending operations "for the safety of our drivers".

Deliver Addis said it was talking to the city government to find out how to comply with the new regulations:

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In recent years, motorbikes have become increasingly popular in the city as a means to avoid traffic jams, but there are not as commonly seen as in many other African cities such as Nairobi, the BBC's Kalkidan Yibeltal says.

The athlete who was leading but stopped with a lap to go

Ethiopian athlete Hagos Gebrhiwet has been trying to explain why he stopped running when he was leading in a 5,000m race on Friday with just a lap to go.

The 25-year-old, who's currently ranked second in the world in the event, celebrated as he crossed what he thought was the finish line but he had only run 4,600m in the Diamond League event in Switzerland.

Hagos Gebrhiwet
Getty Images

On the video highlights you can see him drifting off towards the stands and then looking over his shoulder to realise that he had been overtaken.

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The confusing thing is that you can see the bell being rung, indicating that there was one lap to go.

"When I was leading I saw cameramen in front of me and I thought it was the end," he told BBC Amharic.

He said he did not hear the bell.

"I was confused. When I saw others pass me I started to run. I don't know how I finished the race, but this was an unfortunate event."

Hagos finished 10th in the end. After having lost his momentum he was passed by the other athletes.

His error opened the way for compatriot Yomif Kejelcha to win.

Wife of 'alleged Ethiopia coup plotter arrested'

In Ethiopia, the wife of the man the authorities say masterminded a failed coup in Amhara state has been arrested, his daughter Mahalet Asamnew has told BBC Amharic.

Brig Gen Asaminew Tsige was accused of being behind the killings of the state governor and two others on 22 June.

Two days later he was killed as he attempted to escape from his hideout in Amhara's main city, Bahir Dar, police said.

Brig Gen Asaminew's daughter told the BBC that police had raided their home in the capital, Addis Ababa, last week and taken away a car, laptop and other documents.

Then on Thursday, they arrested her mother, Desta Asefa. It is not clear why she was detained.

The police would not comment on the reported arrest.

Last week, the authorities said that more than 250 people had been arrested, suspected of being involved in the 22 June violence. Along with the officials killed in Bahir Dar, army chief Gen Seare Mekonnen, and another general were killed in Addis Ababa.

Map showing details of what happened in alleged coup

Stark warning over further ethnic unrest in Ethiopia

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

An international pressure group has warned that instability could worsen in Ethiopia if a southern ethnic group carries out its threat to unilaterally declare a new semi-autonomous region later this month.

The International Crisis Group warned that other groups could do the same if the Sidama people were allowed to break away.

The Sidama, who make up about 5% of Ethiopia's population, say they will declare their own region on 18 July unless they are granted a referendum.

Ethiopia's regions are ethnically based. The Sidama do not currently have their own region but are part of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region, where they are the biggest group.

About three million people have been displaced by ethnic clashes since Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power last year.