Thousands participate in a rare public demonstration against the government in Ethiopia

Emnet Assefa

Addis Ababa hosted the first public anti government protest on Sunday June 2nd since the disputed 2005 election that had caused the death by security forces of 198 people in the streets of Addis and the arrest of thousands of Ethiopians.  

Organized by a fairly new opposition political party, Blue party, an estimated 6000- 7000 protestors crowded the streets of Addis Ababa demanding the release of journalists, political prisoners and religious representatives jailed under Ethiopia’s controversial anti-terrorism law.

Protestors who took off from Cuba square on Churchill avenue have also carried placards demanding actions on issues of high cost of living, inflation, youth unemployment, corruption and bad governance and marched to Arat Kilo, the seat of the government.

Nine months after the death of the Country’s long serving Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, the protest is the first of its kind to be held at the capital by citizens who aren’t happy with the ruling party, the Ethiopia Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The protest was originally scheduled to be held during the AU summit and the OAU’s 50th founding anniversary celebration held in the last week of May but was rescheduled due to security reasons.

Associated Press quoted organizers of the protest as saying protestors will return to the streets in three months’ time ‘‘unless the government releases journalists, activists, and Muslim leaders and annuls unconstitutional legislations.’’

What cannot be ignored, however, was the number of Muslims protestors who took part and were demanding the release of their jailed leaders.  Since Dec. 2011 thousands of Muslims have been staging peaceful demonstrations every Friday protesting against what they say were unwanted government interference in their religious affairs.

Photo –  BefeQadu Z. Hailu

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