Addis Ababa has been gripped by violence the past three days as heavily armed police and troops have responded to rock-throwing protesters with gunfire. Over thirty deaths have been reported. Bloggers and citizen journalists have been keeping the world posted on events within Addis and their larger importance.
Doctors rush a man injured in the Addis riots into Black Lion Hospital. Photo by blogger Andrew Heavens.
The protests concern May's parliamentary polls, which opposition supporters assert were rigged by Meles Zenawi's ruling party. On Monday, a group of taxi drivers were arrested and stripped of their taxi licenses after protesting the polls. This, combined with the detention of top opposition officials on charges of treason, has apparently inspired street protests by supporters of the CUD (the leading opposition party.) Police and military reaction to these protests was swift and violent – doctors at Black Lion Hospital report that most victims were shot in the chest, and eyewitnesses accuse police and troops of firing indiscriminately.
Nazret, an aggregator of news and blogs from Ethiopia, has opened a special section for eyewitness reports from Addis – they're checking IP addresses to confirm that posts are coming from computers in Ethiopia. Some excerpts from the Nazret reports:
I was shopping in Merckato with my friend, all of a sudden I heard people screaming and runing around me. I was in a state of panic for a while and my friend started to pull me towards her. Then we started running as fast as we can with live bullets fling past us, with the confusion I lost my friend. Now I don't know where she is, all I can do is pray for her and every one in Ethiopia. This government is refusing to give us our freedom, they shot us like mad dogs, I am in tears as I wright this. GOD help us and pray for us
Massa suggests that the weapons being used are heavy ones, not semi-automatic rifles (Kalashnikovs):
My dear freinds I couldn't identify what king of weapons are shoooting at Ferensay legasion but I'm shure it is not clashinkove. the voice of the weapon is very heavy. I have seen dead bodies at long distance but the soldiers wouldn't allow to get close to the fighting place…
Netsanet offers this report shortly after noon yesterday in Addis:
The Situation in Addis is as follows: 1. No News papers At all 2. Every young group is arrested 3.Gun fires heard everywhehere in Addis to shot people coming out to streets demanding the release of innocent political leaders 4.Most shops are closed 5. Everybody asking the release of innocent political leaders 6. People are waiting instructions from CUD substitutes to take more actions Netsanet.
As the violence has continued, the comments thread turned to a debate between CUD and EPRD (the ruling party) supporters. But eyewitness reports continue to come in today. “yasteseryal” reports:
The clash continued for a third day in Addis, around Mexico Area. It's only learned that they killed one person. As he (Victim) was trying not to get in to their car, one of the force shot him in his chest.
And yesterday midnight, forces were intruding homes. They took and throw to jail more than 2000 teenagers and early twenties guys from their home. In some part of the city, they just checked ‘Kebele’ ID-Card.
As today is Muslim's Eid Mubarak, the people seem to calm down not to disturb the Muslim community. However, the tense is getting higher and there is no transportation service nor any market opened.
Many of the most moving photos coming from Addis are shot by Andrew Heavens, a freelance photographer (currently shooting for Reuters), who regularly blogs at Meskel Square. It's understandable that he hasn't had time to write about the events of the past two days yet, though his blog will be one to watch as things cool down a bit. Nazret has posted a collection of photos of the protest, shot by Heavens and others in Addis. Andrew's Flickr photos give a good overview not just of the riots, but of life in Addis in general.
Un ferengi à Addis, a French-language blog subtitled “Le blog d'une expat ou la chronique déplaisante d'une dictature ordinaire” (“the blog of an expat, or the unpleasant journal of an ordinary dictatorship”) offers a great deal of context for the violence and opposition leaders’ arrests (all in French.) She returned this morning to Addis, and has a moving post about the aftermath of the violence:
Ce matin vers 8h30, toute trace du carnage était nettoyée. Enfin, la carcasse d'un bus carbonisé n'avait pas encore été enlevé de la ring road (le périph adissois) et deux voitures brûlaient encore. On pouvait deviner des traces d'incendie, de pneus brûlés çà et là, vagues vestiges d'une violence volatilisée.
Ce n'est qu'une impression bien sûr. Les taxis ne roulent pas, les boutiques sont fermées, les bérêts rouges armés jusqu'aux dents patrouillent et achèvent leur boulot de fossoyeur, quelques policiers fédéraux sont nonchalamment assis sur les pelouses de Bole Road, principale avenue d'Addis.
(Rough translation) As of 8:30 this morning, almost all traces of the carnage were removed. The shell of a burned bus had not been removed from the ring road and two cars still burned. One could see traces of fire, tires flaring here and there, vague vestiges of volitile violence.
It is only one impression, of course. The taxis do not run, the shops are closed, the red bérêts – armed to the teeth – patrol and do the job of gravedigger. Some federal police officers nonchalantly sat on the lawns of Bole Road, the principal avenue of Addis.
Sokari's earlier post on the riots has generated a number of comments, largely critical of the Meles government and international lack of interest in the events in Addis. Selam writes, “How the wes claim to have a democracy while waching inocent people gundown in Ethiopia and elseware. actualy the west, specialy the US and UK are the main supporter of tyrant, muderer meles chenawee. They shuld take equal responsibility for the inosent blood speeled in Addis Ababa and elswher in ethiopia.”