ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — An explosion disrupted a huge rally for Ethiopia’s reformist new prime minister on Saturday shortly after he spoke and was waving to the crowd that had turned out in numbers unseen in recent years in the East African nation.
An Associated Press reporter saw more than a dozen injured people, and police said they were investigating. Footage showed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed being rushed from the scene. A rally organizer, Seyoum Teshome, said on Facebook that Abiy and other guests “are all fine.”
In a cowboy hat and T-shirt, Abiy had addressed the crowd in Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square as supporters wore clothes displaying his image and carried signs saying “One Love, One Ethiopia.”
Abiy told the tens of thousands of supporters that change was coming after years of anti-government tensions and there was no turning back.
“For the past 100 years hate has done a great deal of damage to us,” he said, stressing the need for even more reforms.
After the explosion the state broadcaster quickly cut away from coverage of the rally, which broke up with people singing, chanting and going back to their homes.
The 42-year-old Abiy took office in April and quickly surprised Africa’s second most populous country by announcing the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, the opening of state-owned companies to private investment and the unconditional embrace of a peace deal with rival Eritrea.
The United States is among those expressing support for the changes in a key security ally.
“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. “We should never get back to dictatorship. This is time for change.”
Not everyone has cheered the reforms. Some Ethiopians near the border with Eritrea have protested the embrace of the peace deal. And the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, a party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition that has been the dominant force in government for most of the past 27 years, said the announcement on the peace deal had been made before the ruling coalition’s congress met to discuss it: “We see this as a flaw.”
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