Anti-govt unrest erupts for fourth day in Ethiopia
By Tsegaye Tadesse
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Police shot in the air to disperse
protesters in the Ethiopian capital on Friday, witnesses said,
in a fourth day of clashes between police and anti-government
protesters that have killed at least 42 people.
Ethiopia’s worst violence in months has fueled fears about
the stability of the Horn of Africa’s dominant power, prompting
the European Union and African Union to urge restraint.
The latest clashes broke out when a crowd of youths
gathered close to the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis
Ababa tried to pull passengers from a public transport bus.
Witnesses said protesters were targeting public transport
because they saw the state-subsidized service as a symbol of
authority. There was no immediate word on casualties.
On Thursday police opened fire to disperse anti-government
protests in several pockets of unrest across the city, a
stronghold of opposition groups which accuse Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi of rigging his way back to power at polls in May.
The violence has prompted Britain to warn its citizens
against non-essential travel to sub-Saharan Africa’s second
most populous nation.
“The atmosphere in Ethiopia is not good. I am worried about
myself and my family at home,” said a government worker who
gave his name as Tafara. “We think it could explode anytime.”
He said he walked two km (about a mile) to his office as
many taxis and buses stayed off the streets littered with
rocks, broken glass and the remnants of barricades erected by
Doctors at several hospitals put the death toll since the
start of the clashes at 42. The government said on Wednesday it
knew of only 11 protesters and two police officers killed.
SCORES OF ARRESTS
State-run Ethiopian News Agency reported late on Thursday
that seven prisoners were shot dead and 26 wounded trying to
escape from Kaliti prison near the capital.
Ethiopians say Kaliti had previously housed people held for
politically-related offences, but there was no word on the
identity of the reported casualties or whether the incident was
linked to the latest disturbances.
Residents and human rights groups say the security
crackdown has led to scores of arrests including leading
figures from the main opposition Coalition for Unity and
Meles has repeatedly accused the CUD of inciting the
bloodshed, warning that he would not accept any threat to the
peace and security of the country’s 77 million people.
The violence in Addis Ababa coincided with fresh tension
with neighboring Eritrea, its foe in a 1998-2000 border war.
U.N. peacekeepers patrolling the disputed Ethiopia-Eritrea
frontier warned that recent military moves by both countries
had produced a crisis that required urgent attention.
They said on Thursday they were concerned the moves in the
past two weeks involving tanks, air defense missiles and troops
could make the situation “more dangerous” and lead to a repeat
of the conflict.