By Getahune Bekele, Johannesburg-South
“I know what you have gone through to stage this peaceful demonstration and am overwhelmed with joy. I am with you in spirit. If we do not conquer fear, no declaration shall bring freedom to us. If we fail to defeat fear, we cannot pass a free and democratic Ethiopia to our children. Today fear has been concurred and your voices have been heard. It is a huge victory.”
Message of revered political prisoner Andualem Aragie to Ethiopians from his tiny prison cell.
After week long excruciating door-to-door campaign coupled with police brutality and disruptions, including the unlawful detention of senior leaders, the crack opposition party UDJ has staged one of the biggest rallies in the capital Addis Ababa today 29 September 2013.
According to our reporters on the ground, the march under the theme of million voices for freedom was an emphatic success.
The vibrant and colorful demonstrators began flocking to Kebena road shortly after the first rays of the morning sun lighten up the rolling hills of Entoto. An estimated hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from the other sides of the sprawling city were prevented by federal police from travelling to Kebena, significantly reducing the size of the crowd.
“Look, we are not the enemy of the people of Ethiopia. We are working under extreme duress just to put bread on the table. The order given to us is to shoot and kill if you try to go to Meskel square. Please don’t try.” A group of terror smitten federal police members stationed at an intersection near Jan Meda heard saying to the people.
Residents of Merkato, Mexico, Lideta, and Saries were also cut off from reaching Kebena by heavily armed soldiers and police commando units who were staffing several roadblocks in almost all corners of Addis Ababa.
As it is the norm under the rule of a bloody totalitarian regime, UDJP was denied access to all nine squares in Addis Ababa as part of the ruling minority junta’s weeklong attempt to disrupt or totally prevent the rally from taking place.
“Multitude of people reaching the horizon…it is joyous. Holding this demonstration is not our final goal. It is only the completion of the 3-month long rallies we have been staging in various parts of the country. We have to do a lot more than what we already did.” A contented looking young UDJP patriot Habtamu Ayalew told reporters at Kebena road that hosted the massive rally.
“I am proud of the people of Ethiopia and delighted to be part of this historic day. Close to hundred thousand people are out to participate in the rally. If it was at Meskel square the turn out could have been different..” UDJP public relations coordinator Ato Daniel who was released from custody few hours before the commencement of the rally said.
Proceedings kicked off with the arrival of 70-year-old veteran politician, his Excellency Dr Negaso Gidada who told the enthusiastic crowd of more than 80- thousand that he places the hope of the nation in their hands. The people responded with thunderous applause chanting “Negaso Mandela! Negaso Mandela!” in reference to his earlier detention by the federal police.
However, it was Andualem Aragie’s massage from prison that evoked many emotions.
In his short massage, the most revered young political prisoner urged Ethiopians to overcome fear and strive for better future.
“I am standing here (in jail) because I longed for freedom.” The massage further read. Some in the crowd openly wept while others shouted slogans.
“Release prisoners of consciousness, release Andualem Aragie and all political prisoners, we want national reconciliation now. Demanding constitutional rights is not terrorism.”
Another highly respected political prisoner who is serving long-term sentence at the notorious Zeway seaside concentration camp type jail, Bekele Gerba’s message was also read out to loud cheers from the crowd.
The rally ended before mid-day without any major incident.
“Today the ruling minority junta once again showed its contempt for democracy. It did everything it could to sabotage the rally but failed. It is a day of one massive victory for the marauding and energetic leadership of UDJP. For me it is the most progressive opposition party in the country blessed with diligent and fearless leaders. Imagine the organizational and logistical nightmares of moving such a huge rally from city center to the outskirts of the city at short notice. UDJP leaders are simply amazing. ” A political analyst who attended the heartwarming rally told the Horn Times by phone from Addis Ababa.
“What i am worried about is the ruling Tigre People Liberation Front/TPLF which continues to breed rapacious cadres and corrupt monsters. It is becoming virtually impossible for civilized political parties like UDJP to work with such brutal zoo of warlords. Four decades later, it is still the ethnocentric and undemocratic TPLF, very much afraid of transformation. It must be defeated at the ballot box, the sooner the better for the people of Ethiopia.” The political analyst who requested anonymity for security reasons added.
By Getahune Bekele, Johannesburg-South