Fearful Streets and Burning Hearts in Addis Ababa
November 8, 2005 1 Comment
I just flew back from Addis Ababa where I have spent the last couple of days attending a meeting. The streets were empty of traffic, as most city residents remained indoors in response to demonstrations and riots that have wracked the city for the past week. At least forty-five civilians are dead, killed in clashes between the police and opposition protestors who charge that the 15 May elections were rigged by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolution Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. It was my first time in Addis and I everyone I encountered was fearful of the ongoing crackdown by the state. I heard of mass arrests, more than ten thousand young men in jail I was told with others claiming that the number was far higher. A young women whose brother was arrested, feared that his punishment might be getting forced to the frontline should war between Ethiopia and Eritrea break out as is seeming more likely by the day. She told me that her mother was in tears daily, dreading the worst for her child, her memories of what happens to people in Ethiopian prisons overcoming any comfort that her daughter and friends tried to provide. I cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim to be deeply knowledgeable on Ethiopia, but I could not escape the feeling I got of it being governed by a state that evokes great fear in its people and that has failed them outside of building wide streets filled with a self regard that gave these poor, brutalised people scant comfort. I hope to return one day when it is more peaceful and I can have the opportunity to discover the city when it is less fearful and when the government is not flexing its muscles.