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Eyewitness accounts of violence in Addis Ababa

Update: BBC is reporting a third day of violence in Addis, as a violent police crackdown extends into the holiday of Eid. Writing on Nazret, “yasteseryal” reports:

The clash continued for a third day in Addis, around Mexico Area. It’s only learned that they killed one person. As he (Victim) was trying not to get in to their car, one of the force shot him in his chest.

And yesterday midnight, forces were intruding homes. They took and throw to jail more than 2000 teenagers and early twenties guys from their home. In some part of the city, they just checked ‘Kebele’ ID-Card.

As today is Muslim’s Eid Mubarak, the people seem to calm down not to disturb the Muslim community. However, the tense is getting higher and there is no transportation service nor any market opened.

Addis Ababa has been rocked with violence the past two days as heavily armed police and troops have responded to rock-throwing protesters with gunfire. Eight deaths were reported yesterday, and at least 23 are reported dead today. Ethiopian special forces have now sealed off the Mercato neighborhood where the protests began.

The protests concern May’s parliamentary polls, which opposition supporters assert were rigged by Meles Zenawi’s ruling party. On Monday, a group of taxi drivers were arrested and stripped of their taxi licenses after protesting the polls. This, combined with the detention of top opposition officials on charges of treason, has apparently inspired street protests by supporters of the CUD (the leading opposition party.) Police and military reaction to these protests was swift and violent – doctors at Black Lion Hospital report that most victims were shot in the chest, and eyewitnesses accuse police and troops of firing indiscriminately.

Ethiopian man injured in the Addis violence, at Black Lion Hospital. Photo: Reuters

Nazret, an aggregator of news and blogs from Ethiopia, has opened a special section for eyewitness reports from Addis – they’re checking IP addresses to confirm that posts are coming from computers in Ethiopia. Some excerpts from the Nazret reports:

Mimi writes:

I was shopping in Merckato with my friend, all of a sudden I heard people screaming and runing around me. I was in a state of panic for a while and my friend started to pull me towards her. Then we started running as fast as we can with live bullets fling past us, with the confusion I lost my friend. Now I don’t know where she is, all I can do is pray for her and every one in Ethiopia. This government is refusing to give us our freedom, they shot us like mad dogs, I am in tears as I wright this. GOD help us and pray for us

Massa suggests that the weapons being used are heavy ones, not semi-automatic rifles (Kalashnikovs):

My dear freinds I couldn’t identify what king of weapons are shoooting at Ferensay legasion but I’m shure it is not clashinkove. the voice of the weapon is very heavy. I have seen dead bodies at long distance but the soldiers wouldn’t allow to get close to the fighting place…

Netsanet offers this report shortly after noon yesterday in Addis:

The Situation in Addis is as follows: 1. No News papers At all 2. Every young group is arrested 3.Gun fires heard everywhehere in Addis to shot people coming out to streets demanding the release of innocent political leaders 4.Most shops are closed 5. Everybody asking the release of innocent political leaders 6. People are waiting instructions from CUD substitutes to take more actions Netsanet.

As yesterday’s violence cooled off, the comments thread turned to a debate between CUD and EPRD (the ruling party) supporters. I’ll be keeping an eye on the thread to see if eyewitnesses report on today’s violence as well…

Many of the most moving photos coming from Addis are shot by Andrew Heavens, a freelance photographer (currently shooting for Reuters), who regularly blogs at Meskel Square. It’s understandable that he hasn’t had time to write about the events of the past two days yet, though his blog will be one to watch as things cool down a bit. Nazret has posted a collection of photos of the protest, shot by Heavens and others in Addis.

Un ferengi à Addis, a French-language blog subtitled “Le blog d’une expat ou la chronique déplaisante d’une dictature ordinaire” (“the blog of an expat, or the unpleasant journal of an ordinary dictatorship”) offers a great deal of context for the violence and opposition leaders’ arrests (all in French.) – if I’m reading correctly, the author is in Ethiopia, but outside Addis, and is trying to get information from within the city.

Friends of Ethiopia, based in New York, has an useful roundup of news stories on the recent violence. And Global Voices’ Ethiopia page provides some background on recent conversations in the Ethiopian blogosphere.

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