Ethiopia’s prime minister appointed a new army chief of staff with a specialist’s background on Eritrea, days after authorities said they’d implement a peace deal with their Horn of Africa neighbor and long-standing foe.
The appointment of Seare Mekonnen marks the first change at the top in 17 years in Ethiopia’s army, which plays a dominant role in the country that has Africa’s biggest population after Nigeria. He belongs to the Tigrayan ethnic group that’s largely held the top ranks of the military, security and intelligence services since the then-rebel Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front seized power.
His appointment was announced late Thursday by Fana Broadcasting Corp., which is funded by the ruling party. Named one of three deputy chiefs of staff earlier this year, Seare also previously headed the military’s northern command, whose jurisdiction covers areas bordering Eritrea.
Eritrea declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after decades of conflict, and the nations have been at odds after a 1998-2000 border war that claimed thousands of lives. A peace deal signed in 2000 was never implemented, with Ethiopia refusing to recognize a monitor’s findings on ownership of a disputed town. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged in April that the country will “resolve problems” with Eritrea.
Abiy also named Adem Mohammed as new director-general of the National Intelligence and Security Services, Fana reported on Thursday. Adem, an ethnic Amhara who previously commanded Ethiopia’s air force, was also appointed as a deputy chief of staff earlier this year.