A Cry for Help from Ethiopia
03 Nov 2005 17:26 GMT
After 5 months of relative calm, violence erupts again in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia... and no one seems to care.
“As I am speaking now, many people are being detained and people are being killed. I have seen special police forces kicking students, pedestrians etc...” says an Ethiopian employee of an international non-governmental organization whose identity is not being disclosed for her protection. According to eyewitness accounts from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, violence erupted Tuesday, November 1 after five months of relative calm.
In May 2005, Ethiopia held its second multi-party elections. Ethiopians widely believe that the opposition party won the elections, despite Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)’s claim that it received a majority. June was a bloody month in Addis Abba, with an estimated 42 killed, and hundreds, mainly students and youth, beaten and harassed. According to the BBC, the opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), have been boycotting the government and held protests on Monday, October 31. The following day, CUD leaders were imprisoned. This led to protests and demonstrations in the capital and violent clashes between civilians and police forces. According to Ethiomedia.com, on Wednesday, five people were killed in an attempt to rescue CUD leader Birtukan Mideksa. This brings the estimated death toll to 41.
The greatest concentration of violence has been reported in the downtown Mercato area. Witnesses describe scenes of horror with special forces opening live fire on civilians, even those who attempt to help the wounded. Gunfire has been reported throughout the city, and seven tanks were seen in Filwoha. However, Tigabu, a merchant in Mercato, says that the police are trying to maintain order, preventing gangs from looting shops.
Reports are also coming out about incitement to ethnic violence. Ethiopia has 80 different groups living within its borders. The ruling class, however, is primarily Tigrian. Allusions have been made to Rwanda. But on Nazret.com, this line of reasoning is being resisted. Bloggers see the ethnic hatred as a tactic of the government to give itself legitimacy and to manipulate the public.
No newspapers were published on Wednesday, November 2 and there have been reports that local and international journalists have been harassed. Particularly, they are being discouraged from visiting the hospital to see the dead and wounded. Youth groups are also targeted by the police, presumably because they are seen as vocal critics of the government. Netsanet reports on the Nazret.com Ethiopian News Portal blog that there continues to be support for the CUD and that many are turning to them for further instructions.
Even in all this chaos, ordinary Ethiopians are still calling for democracy and freedom. They are doing so by singing songs and making known their solidarity with the arrested opposition leaders. Earlier this week, it took the form of honking horns, especially in taxis. CUD has called for a consumer boycott of all products controlled and sold by the EPRDF.
In blogs and emails coming out of Ethiopia, there is a recurring note of desperation. Citizens of Addis Ababa feel neglected by the international community. They are calling for intervention by the African Union, the United Nations, or other international forces.
The current government has received much aid from the international community and donors and until May was heralded as an exemplary government in Africa.