Ethiopia Appoints New Army Chief After Peace Vow to Eritrea

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. Ethiopia is a federal state designed to give autonomy to its myriad ethnic groups, and Seare is from the Tigray community, who’ve largely held the top military, security and intelligence ranks since the then-rebel Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front seized power in 1991.

His appointment was announced late Thursday by the ruling party-funded Fana Broadcasting Corp. Named one of three deputy chiefs of staff to the Ethiopian National Defense Force earlier this year, Seare also previously led its Northern Command, whose jurisdiction covers areas bordering Eritrea.

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“Having headed Northern Command as well as training, Seare really understands where the ENDF are at the moment, and has the credibility as a soldier to have his judgment trusted,” said Sandy Wade, a former U.K. defense attache in Ethiopia who now advises investors in the Horn of Africa. “This is technical: choosing the right man for the job of taking the ENDF forward.”

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