Bahir Dar Rally to support change and Democracy in Ethiopia heralds what is ahead
Bahir Dar has lived numerous bloody days in the last three years before Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April of this year. The very reason for those bloody days and the death of hundreds of youth in the city, in the hands of government-deployed snipers, was a that Bahir Dar aspired for change and an Ethiopia free from the domination of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Today, a message of love, unity, and celebration of an Ethiopian heritage and identity was in the air as hundreds of thousands of people marched the street towards the stadium which was full beyond its 80,000 people capacity.
The motto for the rally was “Let’s support change. Let’s reinforce democracy”
If the measure of success for a rally is turn out and getting the message across loud and clear, the rally organized in the city in support of prime minister Abiy Ahmed represents an absolute success. And if it is to be described in the context of the political situation in the country in the past few years and the struggle for change, which took decades due to the complications born out of ethnic-based political configuration that benefited TPLF, what happened in Bahir Dar this morning is nothing short of a revolution as is the case in most parts of the country.
Ethiopians carried a tricolor flag (green, yellow and red) during the five years of resistance against Fascism in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Even in the unfortunate war with Eritrea, which used to be a part of Ethiopia and hence has a lot in common with Ethiopia, Ethiopians hoised that same flag. But TPLF government outlawed it in the ensuing years and imposed a flag with a blue pentagram on top of Ethiopian colors. The government went to the extent of constitutionally outlawing the historic flag. The measure was understood to be part of the ideological and psychological war against Ethiopians.
One of the things that made the Bahir Dar Rally this morning unique is that it was bold on the issue of the flag. A five hundred meters tall and six meters wide historic Ethiopian flag was hoisted. Demonstrators also hoisted Eritrean flag as well- clearly as a show of support for peace talk between the two countries. The entire Stadium was decorated with Ethiopian flag. For the TPLF government, that constitutes “threatening the constitutional order” and would have caused killings of innocent civilians in extreme case. Otherwise, terrorism charge against those would hold the outlawed flag would have been quite expected.
Another remarkable event in the rally was that two guests of honor were actually political prisoners who were accused of “terrorism charges” and were released after prime minister Abiy took office. Emawaysh Almeu and Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige, whose stars were stripped off during the late Meles Zenawi but reinstated last month by the decision of prime minister Abiy in a ceremony at the National palace organized to send of the chief of staff Samura Yenus, with alleged involvement in a coup. Brigadier General Asamenew Tsige likened prime minister Abiy Ahmed to the biblical Moses who liberated Israel from servitude in Egypt. Emawaysh Alemu on her part expressed a message of love and unity. Obviously, recognition for the victims of “terrorist” allegation amounts to a rejection of the system that subjected them to torture.
The “Let’s support change; let’s reinforce democracy” rally was also meant to send,apparently, a warning message to forces who are working to reverse the ongoing change in the country. Gedu Andargachew, president of the Amhara regional state, who is credited for being a strong ally and one of the motors of the change that is happening in the country had a message in that regard :
“Gamblers [political] from the old and dark age who are sleepless about the reality of our unity are relentlessly working to disturb our peace. But they did not succeed.” Gedu told the crowd at Bahir Dar Stadium.
Gedu had also a way of telling that the new administration is not weak. “People in the region worked with Ethiopians from other regions to ensure that a strong government is formed.”
He also noted the important role of media in making the unfolding change a success when he called upon professionals and bloggers to be balanced in depicting the unfolding change and the gaps that need to be filled.
Prime minister Abiy Ahmed could not make to the rally in Bahir Dar for undisclosed reasons. But he sent a message through the deputy prime minister, Demeke Mekonen, who was another keynote speaker at the rally. His speech focused on the notion of forgiveness in light of ethnic-based violences. Calling the youth ” Dear harbingers of change”, he said, “Despite divergence in political conviction, the struggles of all Ethiopians emanates from the desire for change.” In what seems to be a pledge for good governance, Demeke Mekonen said
“I am not sure if we will not make a mistake. But I am sure that we will hear your when it happens and that we will be ready to take corrective measures right away.”
The revolution from within the ruling coalition, which was rather catalyzed by the demands of Ethiopian people, has clearly transformed leaders and parties that used to be considered as TPLF stooges. It seems like it is a new ear for Ethiopia. Yet, the road ahead is sure to have its own political challenges due to competing ethnonationalism, among other things, as an impact of ethnic ideology that served minority TPLF to maintain power for twenty-seven years and finally get away with billions of dollars of loot and crimes against humanity.
Rally to support prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform measure was organized many other towns in the regaion and in other parts of Ethiopia as well.
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