Political unrest returned to the streets of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa this week. And, once again, the country's bloggers were on the frontline.
Posts over the last few days focused on clashes between armed federal police and protesters during the annual celebrations of Timket – the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church's festival of the Epiphany.
There were no confirmed reports of deaths during the protests, which were sparked by controversial national elections and the subsequent mass arrests of opposition politicians, journalists and alleged rioters. But the violence had ominous echoes of more serious confrontations in June and November last year, when more than 80 people were killed.
Then shots rang out. One, two, three. I lost count as the crowd surged. An old woman next to me nearly fell, and I thought to help her but realized that I too was almost falling. My colleague had his hand on my back at first, trying to keep track of me, but soon he was out of sight.
When I looked back to try and spot him, I saw a man fall to the ground in pain. Blood was streaming from his leg. It was clear that he had been shot. I tried to push my way back through the people, but this was impossible. There was screaming and crying, and the wounded man was picked up and taken away in a matter of seconds, leaving only a shoe and a puddle of blood.
Aqumada posted another eye-witness account from a friend. Nazret.com kept everyone up to date with photos of the unrest. Meskel Square missed the action but published some more photos of the colourful Timket celebrations before any trouble broke out.
Global Voices’ own Ethan Zuckerman joined in with a barbed modest proposal for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on his personal site My heart's in Accra. The proposal in question was for Meles to stock up on non-lethal munitions – including sponge bullets and beanbag projectiles – for the next time his forces have to control crowds of protesters in the nation's cities.
Carpe Diem Ethiopia mixed Ethiopian and American politics with his reflection on Martin Luther King, Jr., the EPRDF and protest politics:
In honoring MLK we also celebrate the rights to assemble, petition, and to protest, rights so vital for a democracy yet rendered criminal liabilities by a government that defines itself as “revolutionary” and “democratic.”
Motherhood is not the most beautiful thing I have done in my life. Rather, it has been the most uncertain, destabilizing entity to hit my life. All of a sudden my confidence plummeted, I lost my footing, I was filled with doubt and dread about being responsible for the wellbeing of another living, breathing human being. I spent countless nights debating and rattling sabers with my husband about morality, discipline, logic and latitude—and I can guarantee you no part of it was beautiful. I’ve agonized over what a complete basket case I’d be if I lost a child. Parenthood made me be what I had always resented: vulnerable, bourgeois and the champion of everything status quo. I started to fight to quell the rebel in me and gut check that part of me which made questioning authority prerequisite for fun. Alas now I was the authority. Parenthood turns you into a horrible cliché.
The term (Japanizers) highlighted the impact of Japan’s Meiji transformation on Ethiopia’s intellectuals. Japan’s dramatic metamorphosis by the end of the nineteenth century from a feudal society—like Ethiopia’s—into an industrial power attracted them.
One blogger who made it clear he was never going to touch the ins and outs of Ethiopian politics “with a ten-foot pole” was Addis Ababa Rocking Fun Zone who returned after a long hiatus on Monday. In his own words:
Although it might be more interesting, or at least more timely, to discuss Ethiopian politics, I have no interest in doing that. I prefer my physical and social safety…Perhaps if I was blogging from the U.S., I might be able to offer my thoughts, but no dice for now…
Continuing a dinner conversation I had with some friends last night, however, I can take on the emotionally invigorating subject of which Ethiopian musician has the best beats.
His answer was, of course, the Ethiopian singing sensation Teddy Afro. Next week, he promised, he would take on another hot topic – “Ethiopian pastries: better or worse than their American counterparts”. Stay tuned.