An Ethiopian Army general who was accused of fomenting a coup in the northern city of Bahir Dar was shot and killed by a bodyguard earlier this week.

The General, Asamnew Tsige, is being held responsible for the shooting deaths of the Army Chief of Staff, the highest ranking military official in Ethiopia, as well as another retired General. The Government alleges that General Tsige, long a revered and important leader among the Amhara ethnic group, was attempting to seize control of the Amhara province and break away from the control of Addis Ababa, the national capital.

Ethiopia may seem to outsiders like a homogenous society, but in truth, it is a patchwork federation made up of diverse ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups. Long considered a model for ethnic and religious cooperation, recent years have seen far more tension along these lines.

Amhara is not a coffee producing region, but the southern zones of Gedeo and Guji (both of which denote linguistic and cultural groups, as well as political demarcations in the heart of coffee country) have seen intense ethnic conflict over the past 24 months. Washing stations have been burned and up to 100,000 people displaced. In parts of Gedeo and Guji, there are reports of food shortages, as a result of these conflicts limiting access.

This most recent setback for Ethiopia as a contiguous nation comes right as the shipping season for coffee is coming to a close. While the majority of coffee has already moved to Djibouti for shipment, there are still significant amounts left in Addis warehouses preparing to be milled. As the internet has been blocked for the past four days throughout the country, it is difficult to know what will happen next.

This story is going largely unreported in the Western press, so we will be sure to pass along any material updates as we receive them. We are communicating daily with Haile, our man in Addis, as well as our suppliers whenever the cellular networks allow it.

More information can be found here.