Eritrea Condemns Assassination Attempt
By ASHER MCSHANE
Four people have been killed in a suspected bid to kill the new prime minister of Ethiopia in a grenade attack during a rally.
Tens of thousands of people had turned out at a rally to see Abiy Ahmed give a speech in the capital Addis Ababa.
Two men and a woman were arrested at the scene when someone tried to throw the grenade towards a stage where the prime minister was sitting, according to organisers of the rally.
Several other people were injured.
Rally organiser Seyoum Teshome said: “An individual tried to hurl the grenade toward a stage where the prime minister was sitting but was held back by the crowd.”
The attack was “cheap and unacceptable,” the prime minister said, and added: “Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.”
Mr Abiy, 42, took office in April and quickly announced sweeping changes in the country. He approved the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, opened state-owned companies to private investment and embraced a peace deal with rival Eritrea.
The rally was a demonstration of peace until the attack with people displaying banners that read “One Love, One Ethiopia.”
“I’ve never thought this day will come in Ethiopia. I’m very emotional right now,” said Mulugeta Sema, a supporter of Abiy who wore a T-shirt with the new leader’s image and spoke before the blast. “We should never get back to dictatorship. This is time for change.”
Eritrea’s ambassador to Japan Estifanos Afeworki, said on Twitter that his country “strongly condemns the attempt to incite violence” in Saturday’s attack.
The United States has been among those in the international community expressing support for the dramatic changes in Ethiopia, a key security ally in a turbulent region with neighbors including Somalia and South Sudan.
Mr Abiy is the first prime minister from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in the country, since the ruling party came to power in 1991. Ethiopia’s sometimes deadly protests demanding more freedoms began in the Oromia and Amhara regions in late 2015 and spread elsewhere, finally leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn early this year.
Mr Abiy visited the restive regions shortly after taking office and stressed the importance of resolving differences through dialogue instead.