Dubbed as the biggest demonstration in Ethiopia since 2005, a political rally of protest organized by the opposition ‘Semayawi’ (Blue) Party led by Yilikal Getnet was held last Sunday,
June 2. Its supporters marched through the streets of Addis Ababa in the demonstration that ended around 2:00 pm in the afternoon.
The protestors called for the unconditional release of political prisoners, freedom of religion and rallied against unemployment, inflation and corruption.
Yilikal told Capital that he estimates that the protesters that marched from the party’s head office, located around Kebena Area, through Piassa to Churchill Road, to be well over 100,000 according to the calculations of his party but is not sure of the exact figures. Meanwhile, government estimates puts the number at 4,000.
The party had notified the relevant authorities at the Addis Ababa City Administration to hold the rally on May 29th during the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary celebrations and ordinary sessions. However their notification was refuted due to the fact that police were fully engaged with the various events happening around the city for the 50th anniversary.
Yilikal further said that if their demands are not met in three months time his party will call another round of public rally. “It is exercising our rights and it is also our responsibility to fight for our rights to be respected. Otherwise, if we don’t do it, who will be fighting for us?” he asked.
Shimelis Kemal, deputy head of Government Communication Affairs Office said that it is the right of anyone to hold demonstrations or rallys. “But it was simply not possible to do it at the time they first wanted, as police forces were overstretched.” He further noted that there has been some serious breach of conduct as the demonstrators were seen fighting over the country’s flag and mixing politics and religion. “This is against the constitution,” he explained.
However, Yilikal totally disagrees with this allegation. “It is our right to protest against government intervention in religion. We can demonstrate for the government not to meddle in any religion. This is purely our constitutional right,” he said.
Back in 2005, over a million supporters of the now defunct opposition party – CUD (Coalition for Unity and Democracy) took to the streets in support of the party in its bid to win the elections.
Semayawi party was established two years ago.