By Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane
Addis Abeba – Tigrayans mourned the unexpected death of Major General Gebremedhin Fikadu, a.k.a Wedi Necho, who was the Head Defense Communication and Electronics Cyber Department at the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). Wedi Necho died on Monday 02 May after collapsing in Kality prison, where he was detained after being arrested on 10 November 2020. His body was laid to rest on Wednesday 04 May at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Abeba. Tigrayans who attended the funeral staged a protest calling for the release of other Tigryans in detention.
The funeral ceremony was attended by His Holiness Abune Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church, along with family members, relatives and many other mourners. Tigrayan mourners gathered at the funeral ceremony staged a protest calling for the release of Tigrayan prisoners and denounced being targeted on the basis of their identity.
According to reports, Maj. Gen. Gebremedhin Fekadu was visited by his wife and child at the Federal Prisons Commission, Kaliti High Detention Center, the day he died at around 9:30 a.m. local time when he suddenly collapsed while talking with his family. According to a short announcement of condolence by the Federal Prison Commission, he was rushed to a nearby medical facility with his family, where he was later pronounced dead at the scene.The Commission also said that his body had been sent to a medical facility for further examination to determine the cause of death which the Commission said will be made public when the result was ready.
Maj. Gen. Gebremedhin was the first defendant in the case file that included his former colleagues and was facing charges after being accused of interrupting radio communications and handing over radio equipment to the TPLF while he was the head of the Defense Communication and Electronics Cyber Department of the Ministry of Defense. They were being held at the Kality Prison while following their case at the Federal High Court’s Lideta Division 3rd Anti-Terrorism and Constitutional Criminal Bench.
State Minister for the Ministry of Justice, Fekadu Tsega spoke on the matter and said he received information from the Federal Prisons Commission that Wedi Necho was taken to a medical facility with his family after his sudden collapse, and that he knew he was pronounced dead at the scene. Fekadu further said that an autopsy was being performed to determine the cause of death but the result was not immediately available. When asked if he had received any medical treatment, Fekadu said he had information that he was “treating his eyes.” Other than that, he said they had no information about any other medical procedure. He also said he had not been able to obtain different information from the prison.
But in a statement released on 04 May, Tigrayan authorities expressed sorrow and demanded “an independent investigation to be conducted by an impartial international entity.”
According to Maj. Gen. Gebremedhin’s sister-in-law, he had never been sick before and he was healthy. Similarly the defense lawyer explained that he had a court appointment the next day and that he was in good health when he met his client last Thursday and Friday on 28 and 29 April .
The sudden death of Maj. Gen. Gebremedhin Fekade in the file case containing other former defense officers prompted an adjournment by the federal court of an alternative date for the hearing of the prosecutor’s witnesses against the defendants, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Justice. The hearing for the prosecutor’s witness testimonies was originally adjourned until 03 May. In a letter to the federal court the prison administration said the first defendant in the case had passed away on 02 May.
The defense team for the remaining defendants on their part stated that their clients should be given an alternative appointment because they did not have the psychological readiness to mount a defense argument against the prosecutor’s witnesses before the body of their fellow was buried and asked the court to send a letter to the prison so that they could attend the funeral. “We had a long work relationship and friendship with the deceased,” the defendant said. The prosecutor said he would not object to the alternative appointment, but insisted the defendants’ escorted attendance at the funeral was unusual and poses security risk and that the prison should look into the matter.
The court discontinued the charges against the diseased and adjourned the hearing for the remaining defendants until 16 to 20 May, to hear prosecutor’s witnesses testimonies against the defendants.
At the time of his arrest on 10 November 2020 along with 16 other military officers, Maj. Gen. Gebremedhin served as Head Defense Communication and Electronics Cyber Department at the Ministry of Defense. Previously served as the Commander of the then Agazi Brigade of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF).
Born in 1968 in Hahayle Woreda, Central Zone, Tigray regional state, Major General Gebremedhin joined the Tigrayan people’s struggle to overthrow the military dictatorship, Derg, in 1983. He was one of the military officers who led the 21st division during the 1998 -2000 Ethio-Eritrean war in the Gemahlo front, Operation Sunset, Sembel, and Bademe.
Maj. Gen. Gebremedhin also served as the commander of the Agazi army in the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia after Ethiopia sent its troops in 2006. Prior to Somalia, Wedi Necho was sector head of 1, 800 strong Ethiopian peacekeeping mission to the then war-torn Liberia in 2003 under the auspices of the UN peacekeeping mission.
After returning from Somalia, he served as the head of the 6th Mechanized Division and head of Hibret Military College.
He was a graduate bachelor’s degree in Leadership and Military Science from Staff Command College. He was married and survived by three children. AS