Update: No deaths at Ethiopia’s PM Abiy’s rally

772 0
772 0
The crowd at Ethiopia PM Abiy’s rally in Addis Ababa before the bomb blast. Abiy addresses the crowd

There were no deaths after a grenade blast rocked the first rally of  Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s  in the capital, which was  attended by tens of thousands of people.

Abiy had just wrapped up his speech in the heart of Addis Ababa when the explosion went off, sending panicked crowds towards the stage as the prime minister left hurriedly, an AFP correspondent said.

In an address broadcast afterwards on state television, Abiy said the blast was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally but did not name them.

“The people who did this are anti-peace forces. You need to stop doing this. You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future.”

He said several people had been killed.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the rally

But his chief of staff Fitsum Arega later said on Twitter that there were no deaths.

“As of now, based on reports from police and hospitals, 83 people are injured. Of the 83 injured, six are in critical condition. No death so far has been reported,” Arega said.

“Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attack,” he added, vowing that the perpetrators will be brought to justice

The cause of the blast was unknown and further details on the casualties were not immediately available.

Police fired tear gas as they moved in to clear Meskel square where the rally was held, the AFP correspondent said.

It was Abiy’s first public speech in the capital since he took office in April, although he has made several in provincial areas.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia

In the past three months, Abiy has made major changes in Ethiopia including shaking up the security services, releasing jailed dissidents, moving to liberalise the economy and to resolve a two-decade conflict with arch-enemy Eritrea.

“Ethiopia will be on top again, and the foundations will be love, unity and inclusivity,” he declared on Saturday, dressed in a green T-shirt and a hat.

After the blast, dozens of people stormed the stage, hurling various objects at police, shouting: “Woyane down, down,” and “Woyane thief”, using a pejorative term for the government, the AFP correspondent said.

– Opposition ends ‘armed resistance’ –

Abiy succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned in February amid a wave of anti-government protests led by the country’s two largest ethnicities, that started in late 2015 and left hundreds of people dead.

His actions since coming to power represent dramatic shifts in the power balance within Africa’s second-most populous country.

But it remains unclear how deep Abiy’s support runs within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) for carrying out the reforms.

On Friday, Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7 announced it would cease armed attacks in the country following the reforms announced by the new government.

Last month, Ethiopia released from prison top Ginbot 7 official Andargachew Tsige.

Prosecutors also dropped charges against the group’s leader Berhanu Nega, who is based outside Ethiopia and had in 2009 received a death sentence in absentia over an assassination plot.

“Our forces have received strict orders to refrain from any sort of armed resistance,” the group said in a statement.


Join the Conversation