Thousands of city dwellers descended on the streets of Addis Abeba this morning to participate in a government organized rally against the killings by militants of the Islamic State (IS) of Ethiopians and possibly Eritreans and the killings of three Ethiopians by xenophobic attacks in South Africa. But the rally was marred by chaos following chants by protestors that led to a police crackdown.
A picture from the MoFA also shows a peaceful side of the story
The rally was called by the government following a parliament’s decision yesterday to declare three days of national mourning that began as of today. Yesterday a voluntary rally by thousands of people that started in Cherkos neighborhood, home to two of the identified victims, was forcibly dispersed by the city and federal police forces.
At one point in today’s rally the police have started firing teargas against a group of youth who used the chance to protest against the government chanting “your time is over,” and “where is the government?”. A number of people were injured following police’s crackdown against different groups inside the demonstrators; plain-clothed security agents have also detained many at the scene. Shortly after disturbances began the Agazi special force have also come to occupy large swaths of the Meskel Square.
One of our reporters, Mahlet Fasil, said she also saw three security officers, one from city police and two from the federal police, taken by Ambulance after they were beaten by demonstrators. Addis Standard cannot verify if all the injured have sustained beatings from the police or were victims of minor stamped amidst the chaos. Hundreds of people were seen running to take shelters inside St. Estifanos Church, adjacent the Meskel Square.
The entire program of the rally was not clear, but police started dispersing it shortly after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s speech was over. Other speeches by religious leaders and Diriba Kuma, Mayor of the city, were booed by groups of demonstrators.
Meskel Square is now calm but other reports say riot police have surrounded the Addis Abeba University campus, a flash point for many demonstrations in the country that often ended up with police crackdown including killings. The police have also continued dispersing crowds from tents in Cherkos neighborhood where three more victims have been identified.
Another screenshot from activists’ Facebook sites show the other side of the demonstration
But according to a facebook statement from the government communication affairs office, the program ended in peace although a few people who wanted to advance their political causes using the opportunity tried to disrupt it unsuccessfully. “Less than 20 people who have the intension to use the death of our citizens to advance their cheap politics have tried to spread chaos but the public have ignored them,” a statement on the Facebook of the office said.
A video showing the beheading and execution to death of more than two dozen Christian Ethiopians surfaced over the weekend on the official site of IS militants. The number of those brutally murdered was originally reported to be 28, but some latest information say it is 30 and also possibly includes Eritreans.It is also not clear when the killings happen.
The 29-minute online video purports to show militants holding two groups of captives. It says one group is held by an IS affiliate in eastern Libya known as Barka Province and the other by an affiliate in the south calling itself the Fazzan Province, according to AP.
Cover Photo: A screenshot from the government communication affairs Facebook site shows demonstrators marching peacefully