An explosion disrupted a huge pro PM Abiy Ahmed rally on Saturday shortly after his speech and waving to the crowd that had turned out in numbers never seen before in the capital’s Meskel Square.
In a televised address shortly after escaping what Addis Abeba Deputy Police commissioner Girma Kassa described it as an “apparent assassination attempt” at a rally organized to support his reform agenda, PM Abiy said, “such small incidents will not deter us from the journey of renewal. We will unite and overcome this failed and defeated idea.”
PM Abiy sent his condolences and appealed for calm and unity to defeat spoilers.
“Love will win. Forgiveness will win. Killing is a sign of defeat. They failed yesterday. They failed today. They will fail tomorrow,” he said to suggest that there’s indeed a loss of life.
An Associated Press reporter has seen more than a dozen injured people. Footage showed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed being rushed from the scene by security guards.
Jawar Mohammed, an activist and executive director of the Oromo Media Network (OMN) confirmed that four people have died and scores injured.
The Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Office, Fitsum Arega, tweets shortly after the incident to say:
“We will overcome hate with love. Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attack. HE PM Abiy is safe. All the casualties are martyrs of love & peace. HE PM sends his condolences to the victims. The perpetrators will be brought to justice.”
Abiy was chanting in front of the tens of thousands of his supporters before the explosion that change is coming after years of anti-government tensions and there is no turning back.
“For the past 100 years hate has done a great deal of damage to us,” he said, stressing the need for even more reforms.
The state broadcaster quickly terminates the coverage after the incident.
Mr. Abiy took office in April and quickly start implementing reforms by announcing the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, the opening of state-owned companies to private investment and the unconditional embrace of a peace deal with rival Eritrea.
Not everyone has cheered the reforms.
Some Ethiopians near the border with Eritrea have protested the embrace of the peace deal. And the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, a party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition that has been the dominant force in government for most of the past 27 years, said the announcement on the peace deal had been made before the ruling coalition’s Congress met to discuss it: “We see this as a flaw.”
In his reciprocal speech, Eritrea’s president warns those who dumbfounded by the ongoing reforms in Ethiopia will not refrain from obstructing the positive change just to prolong their dwindling power.
“The TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) clique and other scavengers are dumbfounded by the ongoing changes. And, as they know full well that their game has come to an end, they will not refrain from concocting various machinations to obstruct any change and to mollify their wayward appetite.”
Eritrea’s Ambassador to Japan quickly denounces the attack through his Twitter handle.
“Eritrea strongly condemns the attempt to incite violence, in today’s Addis Ababa demonstration for peace, 1st of its kind in the history of Ethiopia.”