Scores of people were hurt in a grenade blast at new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first mass rally in the capital that sent crowds fleeing in panic.
Abiy had just wrapped up his speech in the heart of Addis Ababa before tens of thousands of people when the explosion went off, sending droves of supporters 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, 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 AFP correspondent said the blast happened stage right from Abiy and sent up a small puff of black smoke.
More than 100 people then stormed the stage, hurling various objects at police, shouting: “Down, down Woyane,” and “Woyane thief”, using a pejorative term for the government, the AFP correspondent said.
Police later used tear gas to clear the area, while an AFP photographer saw two men and two women taken into custody on suspicion of being involved with the blast.
The rally in the central Meskel Square was Abiy’s first public speech in the capital since he took office in April, although he has made several in provincial areas.
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, drressed in a green T-shirt and a hat.
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.
While it remains unclear how deep Abiy’s support runs within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), his actions thus far represent dramatic shifts in the power balance within Africa’s second-most populous country.
Political rallies of Saturday’s scale are rare in Ethiopia, where the EPRDF controls all seats in parliament and opposition parties complain of harassment.
But at the rally people openly displayed flags of banned groups such as the Oromo Liberation Front, an act that would usually result in arrest.
Abiy’s reforms have spurred some anti-government groups to seek rapprochement.
After the release of top official Andargachew Tsige in May, anti-government group Ginbot 7 announced on Friday it would cease armed attacks in the country, citing Abiy’s reform agenda.
Ten days to the governorship election in Anambra state, some political parties so not want to take anything for granted.
Among which are the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) who have continued to canvass for support from the electorates.
While the candidate of the PPA, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, discussed the social contract he signed with the people of Anambra on his campaign flag off day in an interactive session with youths in Awka, the candidate of the APC, Mr Tony Nwoye, held a rally in Njikoka local government area of the state.
Mr Nwoye on Wednesday assured the people of effective governance and leadership that would engender strong educational foundation, conduct of local government election and focus on agriculture.
On the other hand, PPA’s Ezeemo, has a manifesto bordering on five cardinal areas of security, Health, Agriculture, Power, and Education where he hosted a critical interactive session with youth leaders.
He said, “I have a contract which I have already signed on my flag off day and I did this because I wish to offer a service to the entire people of Anambra state and particularly the youths who are supposed to be leaders of tomorrow.
“Leaders of tomorrow in the sense that you have more to benefit or more to lose if anything goes wrong within this arrangement called Nigeria or within Anambra state itself. For that reason, I and my team look to the fact that you have been neglected in the past.”
He further reiterated his commitment to empowering the youths in a quest to develop the state.
“I shall establish a leadership development and research center that will help Anambra state raise our youths to become competent leaders in future within my first six months in office.
“I shall engage in innovative and effective orientation, mind set change and mentorship programme for our youths across the state within my first six months in office.
“I shall build modern skills acquisition and resource centers in three senatorial zones in Anambra state. They will award National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, certificate within my first one year in office,” he added.
In a similar vein, Mr Nwoye promised to boost the education of children in the state, should he emerge governor.
Over 14,000 supporters of the former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Ali Modu Sheriff have defected from the PDP to the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC).
The defecting members who were led by the former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, were received during a ceremony in Agbor, Delta State by APC party chieftains.
Noble APC chieftains at the ceremony include the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachukwu, the Vice Chairman of APC, South-South, Mr Hilliard Eta; APC Chairman in the state, Jones Erue; Delta State leader of the APC, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, among others.
Speaking at the event, Mr Ojougboh alleged that the PDP marginalised and forced them out of the party after the Supreme Court judgement that affirmed Ahmed Markafi as the national Chairman of the PDP.
Receiving the newly decamped members, Vice Chairman of the APC, South-South, Mr Hilliard Eta said the new members will further brighten the party’s chances to rule Delta state, come 2019.
Reacting to the movement, Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Delta State, Ifeanyi Osuoza said, “the Party is ready to win all elections across the country, come 2019.”
Pro-coup demonstrators in Burkina Faso on Sunday invaded a hotel due to host talks aimed at hammering out the details of a deal to restore a civilian interim government and attacked participants arriving for the meeting, witnesses said.
Some of the protesters carried signs expressing support for a military junta headed by the elite presidential guard, which stormed a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, disrupting a transition period due to end with elections on Oct. 11.
“They invaded the hotel. It was violent,” said a Reuters witness. “They attacked ex-opposition members as they arrived. One had to be saved from the crowd by security forces.”
The witness said he recognised several of the demonstrators as party militants from the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), Burkina Faso’s former ruling party under ex-president Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in a popular uprising last year.
Benin’s President Thomas Boni Yayi, who has been mediating in the crisis on behalf of West African regional bloc ECOWAS, said on Saturday the talks were expected to lead to the reinstatement of President Michel Kafando’s interim government.