Translation from BBC Amharic Service story
Her name is Fasika Tadesse. She is the editor of a Sunday magazine called ‘Addis Fortune’.
Fasika claims to have had a phone conversation with Brig Gen Assamew Tsige, the alleged perpetrator behind the ‘coup attempt’ in Bahir-dar, the Amhara Region on 15 June, shortly before the event unfolded. She says she recorded the conversation.
She said her boss contacted to alert her of the unrest. That was around 7:30-8:00 in the evening.
She then contacted the public relations officer of the region. No answer. She called the police commissioner; no answer. Then tried the anti-corruption department; again no answer.
Then she contacted the security chief of the region, Brig Gen Assamew himself.
The general picked up after two rings. She informed him who she was, that she was calling from Addis Ababa, and wanted to know what was happening in Bahir-far.
She said he told her there was ‘a conflict’ and that there were casualties.
She said she informed the general what was announced in Addis – that there was a ‘coup attempt’.
The general informed her there was no such thing. According to her the general said coups are not conducted in villages but in places where central government resides. ‘This is far from the truth; perhaps the central government is planning to interfere in this region’ said the general.
So Fasika pressed him by saying ‘ if it is not a coup attempt then what is it?’
‘I can’t say right now. We are trying to find out ourselves as we speak’ he said. ‘We will inform you after we finish our investigation’, he added.
‘When will you inform us as to what is really happening? ‘ she asked.
‘Tomorrow morning , we will make an announcement in the morning’ he answered.
‘One last question’ she said. ‘’Is the shooting still going on?’, she asked.
‘ I can hear shooting on and off’ he replied.
Fasika, when challenged by the BBC whether it was really him (Assamenew) that she spoke to, she said ‘yes, I recognised his voice’.
‘Really’ the BBC reporter asked again.
Fasika replied positively. ‘We have spoked in a number of occasions in the past concerning security situation in the Amhara region’ she reiterated.
The BBC reporter continued to grill her whether the general recognised her voice.
Again she said yes – they had exchanged text messages in the past. ‘There were times when he replied by saying he was in a meeting’ she said. ‘So I would say he knows me’ she said. ‘Perhaps I am wrong’ she added.
Bbc reporter continued to press her. ‘Did he sound agitated? Could you hear the sound of shots in the background?’
Fasika replied: ‘the general was calm. He was in a quiet place. And I did not hear any shooting in the background’.
Bbc reporter: ‘by the time you called him people were already dead …the person who was allegedly accused of being behind the assassinations was calm?
Fasika: ‘yes. It was an ordinary conversation’.
BBC reporter: Why did you choose to remain quiet? Why couldn’t you say I am not ready for an interview …You were not under pressure by the government to remain quiet? People wanted to know of your whereabouts – whether you were okay (the question is not very clear). The message you posted on facebook was still there.
Fasika: I could do much because the internet was down until Wed. I could not say ‘I am okay’ in time. When some people called me from abroad I found out what was being said about me – that I was taken in by the security agents. I simply could not do anything. Deutsche Welle contacted me and I told them I was okay. When the Internet was back in operation then I replied via social media.
I did not take down the facebook note I posted – that I talked to Gen Assamnew Tsigie – because that is the truth. I have his recorded voice with me.
BBC reporter: Are you ready to share what you have recorded with us?
Fasika: No, not now. The case I still on-going.
BBC reporter: Isn’t it strange that the government or security people haven’t come to you to collect information.
Fasika: No I am not surprised. I am a journalist. It is my duty as a journalist to ask questions and investigate matters.That is all what I have done. I contacted the general on that day in order to gather information. And I received information – and I published what I could gather. I have no problem.