November 1, 2005

Six killed in Ethiopian post-election protests

By Tsegaye Tadesse

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Six people were killed and at least
36 wounded in clashes between riot police and opposition
supporters in the Ethiopian capital on Tuesday, a sign of
persistent political tension in Africa's top coffee grower.

Riot police in Addis Ababa firing at stone-throwing
protesters killed five people and wounded 18, hospital sources
said, in a new backlash against a disputed May election.

Government officials said one police officer was killed in
the clashes and 18 wounded. They gave no further details.

Tuesday's violence broke out three days after Ethiopia's
main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) called
for fresh protests over election results it says were rigged.

The appeal prompted the government to warn it would not
accept any threat to security in the country of 77 million.

CUD officials said police arrested their leader Hailu
Shawel and Berhanu Nega, a senior figure in the party, in the
hours following Tuesday's disturbances.

Ambulances rushed casualties to two hospitals in Addis
Ababa as police armored personnel carriers patrolled the
central Mercato market area.

The clashes saw demonstrators set up makeshift roadblocks
of burning tires and smash in the windscreens of several cars.

Many of the wounded said the police attacked first.

"I was on my way home when police attacked me with a stick.
I was running for my life when I was shot in the arm," said
Hunegnaw Teferi, 25, receiving treatment at St Paul's Hospital.

The authorities acknowledged people had been killed on
Tuesday, saying those who were shot had tried to attack police.

"Those killed were those who attempted to assault police
with machetes," Information Minister Berhanu Hailu told


The disturbances were the first in Addis Ababa since
post-election clashes killed 36 people in June, in the
capital's worst violence in four years..

Political tensions in Ethiopia have intensified since the
country's second real multi-party vote handed Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi a third five-year term in power.

The euphoria generated by Ethiopia's most open electoral
campaign quickly dissipated amid mounting opposition claims of
intimidation by the ruling party, and an increasingly bitter
war of words between the two sides.

Meles has repeatedly accused the opposition of plotting to
incite violence and topple his government.

Once feted by Western leaders as part of a "new generation"
of African leaders pursuing pluralism and clean government,
Meles' democratic credentials have come under growing scrutiny
over the election wrangling and his crackdown on civil unrest.

The political deadlock and reports of opposition arrests
prompted the European Parliament last month to warn of possible
cuts in development aid to donor-dependent Ethiopia.

The CUD had urged its members at the weekend to hold a
stay-at-home strike beginning on Monday, attend peaceful
demonstrations and stop listening to or watching state media.

But it denied inciting Tuesday's violent protests. "This is
not our call. All we asked our supporters to do was to hoot
their car horns as a sign of protest," said CUD official
Gizachew Shiferaw.