Second Person Dies After Ethiopian Blast

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original

June 24, 2018 7:36 AM
VOA News

Ethiopia's health ministry says a second person has died following the blast Saturday at a political rally in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Officials say 150 people were injured in the explosion.

Ethiopia's new reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, had just finished a speech at the rally in the capital when a grenade exploded.

Abiy said the explosion was a "well orchestrated attack."

Authorities say nine police, including the capital's deputy chief of police, have been arrested in connection with the blast. The BBC reports the arrested police are being investigated for failing to secure the site.

"Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat," Abiy said in a televised interview after the blast. "To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded."

Since Prime Minister Abiy took office in April, he has made major changes to the country, including releasing almost all jailed journalists, dropping charges against activists critical of the government and moving to liberalize the economy.

He has also pledged to work towards reconciliation with rival Eritrea, by implementing a long-ignored 2002 border demarcation. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki this week described the peace overtures from Ethiopia as "positive signals."

Estifanos Afewerki, Eritrea's ambassador to Japan, posted on Twitter Saturday his country "strongly condemns the attempt to incite violence." He said the "demonstration for peace" was the first of its kind in the history of Ethiopia.

"For the past 100 years, hate has done a great deal of damage to us," Abiy said at the rally, adding that more reforms are needed. "Ethiopia will be on top again, and the foundations will be love, unity and inclusivity."

The White House said Thursday that it was encouraged by recent progress Ethiopia and Eritrea have made toward resolving their longstanding differences. A statement described the leadership of Abiy and Isaias as “courageous.”

Ethiopia’s government also says it has removed internet restrictions on 246 websites and TV channels.

Prime Minister Ahmed’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, announced the news on Twitter Friday, saying “freedom of expression is a foundational right.”

“A free flow of information is essential for engaged and responsible citizenry. Only a free market of ideas will lead to the truth,” he added.

The unblocked news sites include two prominent pro-opposition sites — the Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT), based in Amsterdam, and the Oromia Media Network (OMN), based in Minnesota. Many of the unblocked news sites are run from overseas.

The media rights group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, welcomed the decision Friday.

"Allowing Ethiopians to access these news outlets is a positive sign that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is committed to delivering his promise to end Ethiopia's censorship of the independent press," said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.