Wednesday, November 02, 2005

At Least 100 Killed As Violent Unrest Continues in Addis Ababa

A woman is treated in the corridor of the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the second day of clashes between youths and police in the Ethiopian capital. At least 27 people were killed and almost 150 injured as armed police clashed with demonstrators, as the main opposition party called for protests.(AFP)

Haaretz -- In the second day of violent unrest in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, an estimated 100 people, and perhaps as many as 200, were killed by police and army forces battling rock-throwing demonstrators, most of them young people in their teens or early twenties.

The seems little hope that the violence will subside in the near future.

At least two people, and perhaps as many as 10, were killed in Magananya, just a few hundred meters from the Israeli embassy and the compound run by the Falashmura community waiting to immigrate to Israel.

Eyewitnesses reported that army forces shot at demonstrators as they were running away and entered houses were they had taken refuge. On at least one occasion, troops shot protesters in the street who had been taken into custody.

Many hundreds of demonstrators and some bystanders were beaten with police clubs, andhundreds were loaded onto trucks and carted away to holding pens, including a large amphitheater.

The wife of an opposition parliament member was shot as she attempted to prevent her husband's arrest in their home on Wednesday, said Adam Melaku, the secretary general of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council.

The current violence, the aftermath of a contested election that was held on May 15 this year, began yesterday in the Markota district, the huge, densely populated market area in the heart of Addis Ababa. Stone throwing youths confronted federal police forces, and four demonstrators were shot dead, along with two policemen.

At least two other civilians were killed in other parts of Addis Ababa on Wednesday, and at night, police and army forces arrested top members of the opposition, including Haile Shewan, chair of the largest opposition coalition, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, or Kinijet in Amharic.

Earlier this week, police swarmed the streets, making sweeping searches of young men and arresting hundreds of Kinijet supporters.

Stores were closed all over Addis Ababa, both as an expression of support for the opposition and out of fear of the violence engulfing the city.

All but a handful of stores remained shuttered, the government shut down public transportation, and the city streets were nearly entirely empty of cars.

Hundreds of people gathered at churches to pray that peace would prevail; gunshots could be heard with alarming frequency from various, changing
points around the city, and ambulances screamed through the streets with the injured and dead.

The May 15 elections had seemed a promising turning point in Ethiopian politics, with opposition campaigners allowed substantial freedom to make their case to the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front party, led by President Meles Zenawi, felt confident of victory. However, as the votes were counted, it soon became clear that a surprising upset was in the offing.

In Addis Ababa, as well as in most other large cities and towns where international election observers were posted, the opposition won clear majorities.

According to Western diplomatic sources as well as Melaku of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, the government began to stuff ballot boxes in the countryside, where 80 percent of the Ethiopian population lives, and to steal ballots.

The government quickly announced its victory, which the opposition and the majority in Addis Ababa refused to accept.

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