An attempt was made to kill Ethiopia’s reformist new prime minister at a massive rally in support of sweeping changes he envisions for the country. According to witnesses, a man tried to throw a grenade at the stage he was standing on waving to a crowd of tens of thousands who were cheering after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a strong appeal for unity following months of anti-government protests.
The Prime Minister addressed that nation minutes after he was rushed to safety calling the blast “a well-orchestrated attack.” Ahmed placed no blame and said the police were investigating. According to Health Minister Amir Aman, at least one person was killed and 155 people were nine, nine with critical injuries. A rally organizer stated “The prime minister was the target…An individual tried to hurl the grenade toward a stage where the prime minister was sitting but was held back by the crowd.” The Prime Minister further stated the attack was “cheap and unacceptable…Love always wins. Killing others is peace a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.” A statement from the ruling party blamed “desperate anti-elements” and vowed to continue with the reforms for the country.
The man who threw the grenade was wearing a police uniform. Police officers nearby quickly restrained him but then came the explosion. Nine police officers were arrested that included the deputy head of the capital’s police commission. People chanted the prime minister’s name as they ran in shock. The explosion occurred in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa. There had been weeks of dramatic changes that shocked many in Ethiopia after years of anti-government tensions, states of emergency, thousands of arrests, and long internet shutdowns.
Abiy, age 42, took office in April. He soon released tens of thousands of prisoners, opened state-owned companies to private investment and announced the unconditional acceptance of a peace deal with rival Eritrea. Websites were unblocked and opposition figures invited to dinner. The pace of change came hot and heavy. The rally was to be a show of exuberance with supporters wearing clothes with Abiy’s image and carrying signs that said “One Love, One Ethiopia.” Abiy stated to his supporters that change was coming and there was no turning back. He stressed the need for even more reforms saying “For the past 100 years hate has done a great deal of damage to us.” After the explosion, the rally broke up with people singing, chanting, and returning to their homes.
Supporter Mulugeta Sema was very emotional who spoke before the blast. “I’ve never thought this day will come in Ethiopia…We should never get back to dictatorship. This is time for change.” One Eritrean diplomat, ambassador to Japan Estifanos Afeworki, stated on Twitter that his country “strongly condemns the attempt to incite violence” at the rally. This statement made as a sign of the new effort at dialogue between bitter rivals after a deadly border war and years of skirmishes.
The United States, along with others in the international community has supported the dramatic changes in Ethiopia, a country that is a key security ally in an unstable region that includes Somalia and South Sudan. The U.S. Embassy made a statement that “violence has no place as Ethiopia pursues meaningful political and economic reforms.” ]
Some Ethiopians in the north near the border with Eritrea have protested the acceptance of the peace deal.
Source: article by Elias Meseret for the Associated Press, June 2018