Deadly explosion hits rally for Ethiopia's new prime minister

'Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded'

Saturday 23 June 2018 14:26 BST
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Ethiopians at a rally in Addis Ababa in support of the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed
Ethiopians at a rally in Addis Ababa in support of the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed

At least two people have been killed and others injured following an explosion at a political rally in support of Ethiopia’s new reformist leader.

In a televised address after the blast on Saturday, which eyewitnesses said was caused by a grenade, Abiy Ahmed described the incident as “an unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united”.

He said “a few people have lost their lives” and others were injured in the attack, that came shortly after he spoke to a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters on Meskel Square in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Mr Ahmed has not yet blamed anyone for the blast, nor has anyone claimed responsibility, and police are investigating.

“Love always wins,” he said. “Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.”

An Associated Press reporter said they saw more than a dozen injured people.

Ethiopians have been heartened by a slew of reforms under Mr Ahmed and had come together in a show of support in numbers unseen in recent years in the east African nation.

The rally has now broken up with people singing, chanting and going back to their homes.

In a cowboy hat and T-shirt, Mr Ahmed had addressed the crowd in Meskel Square as supporters wore clothes displaying his image and carried signs saying “One Love, One Ethiopia”.

Mr Ahmed told the tens of thousands of supporters that change was coming after years of anti-government tensions and there was 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 42-year-old entered office in April and went about introducing a swift package of liberalising reforms which surprised Africa’s second most populous country.

He announced 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.

“I’ve never thought this day will come in Ethiopia. I’m very emotional right now,” said Mulugeta Sema, a supporter of Mr Ahmed who wore a T-shirt with the new leader’s image. “We should never get back to dictatorship. This is time for change.”

However, not everyone has supported the reforms.

Some Ethiopians near the border with Eritrea have protested the embrace of the peace deal.

Meanwhile, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the dominant force in Ethiopian government for much of the past 27 years, said the peace deal had been made before the ruling coalition’s congress met to discuss it.

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