On June 23rd, a grenade attack occurred in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, during a political rally for the current prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. The grenade was released after Abiy finished his speech, killing two people and leaving 155 others injured, according to the U.S. News and World Report. A witness told the news agency that the implementer of the attack was wearing a police uniform in the massive crowd. The attack was followed by the arrest of 30 individuals as suspects. In addition, nine police officers are currently in custody regarding what government officials perceive as may have been a breach of security, according to Reuters news agency.
The BBC reports that the reformed prime minister, whose rally was attended by ten thousands of people, was uninjured and evacuated immediately after the grenade attack. However, the rally organizer, Seyoum Teshome, recently spoke to the New York Times about his belief that Abiy was most likely the initial target of the attack, but the chaotic reaction of the crowds may have disoriented the attacker. Abiy’s chief of staff confirmed that he visited some of the victims the night after the attack, giving them words of encouragement, according to U.S. News and World Report. Abiy also stated on Twitter that “The perpetrators will be brought to justice” and that “We will overcome hate with love.” In addition, he appeared on national TV speaking about the attacker and the group’s intention to “undermine the rally,” describing them as anti-peace forces, Al-Jazeera reports. According to National Public Radio, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa “made clear on Saturday that it supports Abiy’s moves” and condemned the violence which currently stands in the way of the country’s future, as it heads towards important political and economic reforms.
The rally was extraordinary in terms of the numbers of people who attended to support Abiy and his reform-minded agenda. Abiy ascended to office in April of this year after massive protests against government corruption forced the previous Prime Minister to step down, according to NPR. Abiy, while having been a part of the ruling party, became a symbol of the opposition and represented its interest. His background as Oromo, the largest Ethiopian ethnic group which has been alienated from government positions in the past by the Tigrayans minority, was also promising in term of a faithful political transition, the former news agency reports. His agenda includes political and economic improvements such as the release of thousands of prisoners, the launching of companies-both state-owned and private-to revive the economy, and the lifting of the overdue emergency state. Most importantly, he has announced his intention to embrace the peace-deal signed with Eritrea in 2000, finally ending disputes between the countries over a border issue, Al-Jazeera notes.
Abiy did not allow the attack to stir him from his goals as he hosted the Eritrean delegation in the following days of the attack, according to Africa News, a multilingual news media service in the Republic of the Congo which covers the continent extensively. However, the attack on the rally, the main motive of which was to showcase the support for the prime minister, is most definitely concerning. It demonstrates the fact that Abiy will face increased opposition as he attempts to implement his reforms. While Ethiopia is gearing toward to what is seen as a positive political and economic change under Abiy’s command, it looks most likely that it will not be a smooth transition. The attack, devastating as it was, hints at much more dangerous conflict brewing in the future.
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