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Ethiopians massively rallied in support of the new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) on Saturday June 23.
During the rally a bomb blast rocked the rally injuring many people. Fitsum Arega Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister Offices said in his twitter account that ‘based on reports from Police and Hospitals, 83 people are injured. Of the 83 injured, 6 are in critical conditions. No death so far has been reported.’
Two people were caught red handed when they were trying to throw grenades. A woman and a man who brought the grenades inside their lunchboxes were captured by the public when they try to throw them.
After the blast the Prime Minister furiously denounced the blast and said that no one who has a ‘plan to set us back will succeed.’ He said that those who did this are ‘cheap and will be identified and will be dealt with.’
Right after the rally where he was rushed to safety by his security officers, he said that the perpetrators will get the proper punishment.
Ethiopia in its recent history has never experienced such kind of attack. “Even during the recent volatile unrests, public places have never experienced such a thing. This is outrageous,” said one of the supporters of PM Abiy, who came with his children.
“How can someone with proper mind do this? This is a rally for unity, love and hope, why would someone be against that?” the supporter asks.
PM Abiy showed up at the march wearing a t-shirt with a map of Africa and Mandela’s famous “power” salute. During his speech he said that he “has no doubt Ethiopia will return to its former glory. Our quest requires all of us to be active participants and not passive bystanders. Regardless our roles, we all need to engage whether it is in the government, in politics, in business, in sciences or arts.”
“Building an independent nation is not the same as building a free society. What good is a free country, if we don’t enjoy freedom? If we are not free from fear? If we don’t have freedom of speech and expression? If we build walls that divide us rather than bridges? What good will come out?” he added.
The crowed continued to cheer and chant when the program was suddenly halted after the blast that happened around 9:30 am.
On the rally several slogans and flags including the Ethiopian unsigned flag, the flag of Eritrea, and flags like Oromo Liberation Front has been observed.
Capital learnt the several people were arriving from different corner of the country when the blast occurs. Some of them even started to walk two days before the event from Adama. Some also came from as far as Gambella. While people started gathering early in the morning around 5:30 am at Meskel square, the flood of the crowd continued until 10:00 am. Police also stated that the public was highly supportive to calm the crowd after the explosive incident that could have created massive damage by stampede.
It has been also reported that most of the victims were transported to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital and other nearby hospitals.
The explosive occurred at the right side of the stage where the officials were sitting.
Some also claimed that the attack is an assassination attempt on the new prime minister.
Eritrea’s Ambassador to Japan, Estifanos Afeworki in his twitter message strongly condemns the attack. “Eritrea strongly condemns the attempt to incite violence in today’s demonstration for peace.” The US Embassy in Addis, Patriot Ginbot 7 and others immediately condemned the attack.
Seyoum Teshome one of the organizers of the rally told Capital that the organizers are visiting those that are injured and will give a press conference about the incident today Sunday June 24.
The rally is one of the biggest ever staged in the country’s history where over a million people attended. See pics of the event on page 22.