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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thousands at Washington Rally Against Ethiopia's PM

Photo
Ethiopian demonstrators wave the red, yellow and green flag of Ethiopia during a protest outside the White House in Washington, DC. Several thousand Ethiopian immigrants staged the demonstration demanding the end of US support for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi after bloodshed in the African nation.(AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

Sudan Tribune -- Several thousand Ethiopian immigrants staged a demonstration in Washington to demand the end of US support for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi after bloodshed in the African nation.

Organizers said there were 20,000 people from across the United States and Canada at the rally, the latest in a series against Meles, who has been in power since toppling a Soviet-backed dictatorship in 1991.

Demonstrators heard speeches in front of the US Capitol building before marching to the State Department, singing songs and carrying banners with slogans such as "Bush, Stop Supporting Zenawi’s Dictatorship."

The demonstrators waved the red, yellow and green flag of Ethiopia, whistling loudly and chanting "Mr. Bush, can you hear us? Stop the killing!" and "No more Meles!"

Bekalu Ayalew, of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party, a coalition of Ethiopian groups in the United States, said: "We want the US government to withdraw its support for the dictator."

Demonstrators handed out flyers asking Americans to contact US lawmakers and the State Department to urge the Ethiopian government "to stop the random killing of civilians."

"We want (Americans) to know (Meles) is a fascist, he’s killing people, women, putting all democratic leaders in prisons," said Zene Teklu, a 51-year-old nurse who lives in a Washington suburb.

Temesgen Tesfaye, 22, who studies in a Maryland college, said he wanted Bush "to pick up the phone and tell (Meles) to stop killing innocent people."

The US president "is supporting terrorists in Ethiopia right now," he said.

Violence in Ethiopia was sparked by elections in May, which the opposition claims were fraudulently won by Meles’s ruling party.

Police opened fire on crowds in Addis Ababa in June, killing at least 37 people and heralding a massive crackdown on the opposition.

Fresh violence erupted earlier this month, leaving at least 48 people dead.

About 2,300 Ethiopians staged a demonstration on November 8 in front of the US State Department in Washington, one day after about 100 members of San Francisco’s Ethiopian community staged a similar protest when Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited the city.

Police at the scene of Tuesday’s demonstration said thousands participated, but officers had no precise figures.

The European Union and the United States issued a joint statement in Addis Ababa last week urging the Ethiopian government to end the use of lethal force against protestors.

Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs and the number three official at the State Department, called Meles on November 4 to express US concern over the latest bloodshed, officials said.

Burns renewed Washington’s call for Addis Ababa to create an independent commission to probe the demonstrations and to free all political prisoners, the department said.

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