ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia's attorney general accused senior members of the security services on Monday of ordering an attack on the new prime minister and announced a string of arrests and investigations that struck at the heart of the establishment.
Berhanu Tsegaye said evidence showed "the senior leadership of the national security agency" told members of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Oromo ethnic group to attack him at a rally in June - a jolting assertion in a diverse country recently rocked by ethnic clashes.
Under other investigations, Berhanu added, arrest warrants have been issued for 36 security agents accused of abusing prisoners, and for more than 30 officials from a military-run firm, where he said inquiries had uncovered mismanagement.
Reuters could not immediately contact the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), or the industrial conglomerate named by the attorney general - Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC).
The accusations against the security services and METEC - a key player in the state- and military-dominated economy - struck at what had been two pillars of power until Abiy came to office in April.
Abiy has since pushed through a series of radical reforms that have challenged the dominance of the security services and upended policies and hierarchies that have been in place since his ruling EPRDF coalition came to power in 1991.
He has pledged to open up state-held sectors to investors and acknowledged widespread police brutality that he likened to state terrorism. He has also made peace with neighbouring Eritrea and announced pardons for previously outlawed Oromo rebels and other groups.
A grenade attack killed two people at a rally in Addis Ababa in June, soon after Abiy left the stage. Authorities arrested five people in September, saying they were members of the formerly exiled Oromo Liberation Front that Abiy had pardoned.
"The evidence we gathered shows that the senior leadership of the national security agency instructed Oromos to carry out the attack because it would mean that the prime minister - an Oromo - was killed by Oromos," the attorney general told a press conference. "It would (also) give the impression that he is not endorsed by the Oromo population.”
Berhanu did not announce any names, and it was unclear how many people in total had been arrested in connection with these new accusations. But he said several suspects had fled Ethiopia or were in hiding.
The attorney general said on Monday that investigations over the past five months had uncovered serious abuses by security services.
"There are people that have been blinded after being held in darkness for long periods of time. Others have been left infertile because of blows to genitals. There are some that had limbs broken. Women have been subjected to gang rape, and men to sodomisation," Berhanu told reporters.
He said investigations had also uncovered issues with procurement procedures at METEC.
"For six years METEC made international procurements totalling $2 billion without any bidding processes," Berhanu said, without naming the international firms involved.
The attorney general said the investigation had examined on METEC's contract for the Grand Renaissance Dam, the centrepiece of Ethiopia's bid to become Africa's biggest power exporter.
In August, the government cancelled the contract, citing delays in completing the project.
The EPRDF government - previously dominated by members of the Tigrayan minority - has delivered economic growth near 10 percent over the past decade but rights groups have accused it of cracking down on dissent.
Abiy became the coalition's first Oromo leader after anti-government protests helped force the resignation of his predecessor.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa bureau; Writing by Maggie Fick and George Obulutsa; Editing by Ed Osmond and Andrew Heavens)
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Updated Date: Nov 13, 2018 00:06 AM