Short-lived mutiny indicates deteriorating Ethiopian military chain of command, but ruling coalition will likely remain in power

12 October 2018

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaking at a press conference in Addis Ababa on 25 August. More than 200 Ethiopian soldiers marched to Ahmed's office to air grievances on 10 October. Source: Michael Tewelde/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • The short-lived mutiny by the Ethiopian soldiers was likely motivated by grievances stemming from military reforms that have eroded the historical dominance of senior ethnic-Tigrayan commanders.
  • The military reforms will continue and it is unlikely that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will be forcibly removed by a military-led coup, although the mutiny does indicate his administration has not fully consolidated its influence over middle-ranking Tigrayan officers.
  • The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front is likely to remain together ahead of the 2020 legislative elections, as indicated by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front party's support for Prime Minister Ahmed at the coalition's annual congress.


More than 200 soldiers attached to the Agazi Commandos on 10 October demanded an unplanned meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over wages and the organisation of military operations. An unspecified deal was reached and a military-led coup remains unlikely, with the ruling coalition probably remaining together ahead of elections in 2020.

More than 200 armed soldiers attached to the Agazi Commandos on 10 October marched to Menelik Palace (the prime minister's office) in Addis Ababa, the capital, and demanded an unplanned meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was appointed in April. Social media showed the uniformed soldiers were initially armed. Ethiopian state television company ETV subsequently aired a broadcast showing the soldiers were unarmed and that a deal had been reached to address the soldiers' grievances relating to wages and the organisation of military operations - although no specific details were shared. Internet services were also shut down in the capital for several hours around the incident.

The Agazi Commandos unit falls under the operational command of an ethnic-Tigrayan colonel. ETV reported that the unit had returned to barracks after being deployed to Burayu, Oromia region, on 17-18 September, as part of a mission to prevent rioting between Oromos and members of other, smaller ethnic groups.

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