Thirty people have been arrested in relation to a recent grenade attack on a political rally in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. The attack left two dead and injured over 150 more people. Most of these injuries were caused by the chaos and stampede that ensued, rather than by the grenade itself. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was present at the rally and had just finished giving a speech when the explosion occurred. Among those arrested, nine are police officials accused of gross negligence regarding security measures and suspected complicity. Twenty others are being held suspects for involvement with the attack. No announcements have been made regarding any responsible party, but Abiy said that the attacks were organized by groups aiming to undermine the rally.
The New York Times cites the leader of the rally, Seyoum Teshome, saying that “the target was the prime minister because the suspect was aiming to throw the grenade by the right side of the stage where he was sitting.” According to witnesses, one suspect of the attack was beaten by the crowd before being taken to the hospital by police officers. The devastating attack came just moments after the Prime Minister’s speech, which was described as “unifying and hopeful” by supporters, the New York Times reports. In reference to the attack, the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia announced via Twitter that “Violence has no place as Ethiopia pursues meaningful political and economic reforms.”
The attacks may be evidence of a backlash against reforms undertaken by Abiy since he took office about two months ago. His reformist agenda has included releasing dissidents from prison, decreasing government control over the economy, and improving relations with the neighbouring country of Eritrea. Many see these changes as positive steps, but those who have enjoyed some measure of control over Ethiopia’s political and economic sphere’s may disagree. The nation has experienced a wave of anti-government protests since 2015. Protests, which broke out in opposition to a development project, grew to include demands for political reforms, increased freedoms, and an end to human rights violations. Through his program of reform, Abiy aims to bring peace and unity to Ethiopia after this long trail of divisive protests.
The U.S has said that it will be sending FBI experts to assist in the investigation of the attack. The U.S has supported the reforms initiated by Abiy thus far by asserting its approval of Ethiopia’s efforts to usher in peace with Eritrea. Under-Secretary of Commerce Gilbert Kaplan has also expressed his support for the economic liberalization in progress under Abiy. With the help of the FBI, Ethiopia’s Federal Police Commission will work to identify the group behind the attack and hold them responsible for their crimes. Abiy will continue his efforts to lead the nation towards peace and end to violence.
The changes that Prime Minister Abiy has begun to make offer a hopeful outlook for Ethiopia. He has condemned violence and discord, speaking instead about love and peace. His releases of imprisoned dissidents represent an end to repression backlash against those desiring to express their opinions. However, the violence that was exhibited at the political rally is troubling. Those who use violence to undermine the political process must be prosecuted. Instead, those who do not necessarily agree with the political changes should practice peaceful methods of making their voices heard. The government of Ethiopia now faces the challenge of discovering the party, or parties, responsible for the recent attack and putting measures in place to ensure it does not happen again. Hopefully, this violence will be left in the past and Ethiopia will continue down the path to peace.