- Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government blames unspecified entities for things that gone wrong during Adwa Victory Celebration in Addis Ababa.
- It was celebrated across the country including in Adwa, Tigray, where the battle was fought
The 127th anniversary of Adwa Victory is celebrated across Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government organized a celebration at Meskel Square, for the first time in the history of Adwa victory celebration amid resistance to it by residents in Addis Ababa who rather wanted the celebration in the historical place in the capital – Menelik Square.
Not even hours after president Sahle-Work Zewde put a wreath of flowers under the Statue of Emperor Menelik II in front of St. George church, the celebration vibe degenerated to that of confrontation between security forces and residents of the city that crowded Menelik II Square for the celebration.
Initially, roads leading to the Square were closed by Addis Ababa police as part of the security arrangement for the celebration. But it was opened around 8:00 a.m. after President Sahle-Work left the area following the brief ceremony. The measure was unprecedented and has reportedly caused grievance among residents of the city who were at Menelik Square – where the victory has always been celebrated in the city.
What followed was a clash between police and residents who wanted to continue to celebrate at Menelik Square. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd. Many were beaten. Some sustained serious and life-threatening injuries.
It is confirmed that one person was killed. The victim is identified as Mekuanent Wodaj who was said to be a physics teacher at Menelik II preparatory school.
Tear gas was also thrown at the premises of St. George where many faithful followers of the Ethiopian Church were attending liturgy on the occasion of St. George’s monthly commemoration. EOTC media reported, on Thursday, that service was discontinued after tear gas was thrown. The report said government security forces threw tear gas at the church premise after the Ark procession ceremony was completed and the holiday was being celebrated. This particular Ark has a strong link to the victory of Adwa in that priests carried it to Adwa in 1896.
Ethiopian government narrative
The Ministry of Government Communications Service released a statement regarding the victory celebration and the incident at Menelik Square and St. George church.
State media said the celebration is organized under the theme of “unity, bravery and perseverance.”
It started by explaining why the Defense Force was made in charge of Adwa Victory and why the celebration moved to Meskel Square.
It said that the government put directions for the 127th celebration to take place in a way that commemorates “our history, perpetuates multi-ethnic unity and fosters nation building.” Noticeably, the consent of Ethiopian Unity is changed with ethnic politics flavored wordings of “multi-ethnic unity.”
What it pojected is an image of Adwa victory that is a product of popular participation in a way muting the role of the leadership. It is like projecting the 1949 Chinese revolution without the leadership of Mao or the Cuban revolution without Fidel Castro.
The statement highlighted that Ethiopan did not have a regular army at the time and that victory was the result of popular participation. Now the defense force is the inheritor of that history and that is why it is given the responsibility to organize the Adwa celebration, it said.
Regarding the incident at Menelik Square where many were left injured, the government blames unspecified mysterious “entities.”
“Security forces had information that entities who do not want the celebration of such a national event to be a success had plans to make it a failure.”
They attempted, it went on to say, to disrupt the ceremony at Menelik Square. When they failed to do that, they attempted to disrupt religious services at St. George Church.
However, coverage from the Ethiopian Church media clearly indicates that security forces threw tear gas to the Church compound and religoius celebration was disrupted.
Video footage and images circulating on social media also indicate that government security forces were brutally attacking residents as they tried to celebrate the victory day.
Also, government security forces were closing down printing presses that were printing T-shirts featuring the image of Emperor Menelik II.
On why the government took the celebration to Meskel Square, it said it is out of consideration of convenience to celebate it on a scale that matches the prestige of the victory. Conducting military parades and airshows are also given as an example.
The Meskel Square Celebration
It was attended by president Sahle-Work Zewde, Defense Chief of Staff and his deputy and regional state presidents and members of the diplomatic community.
The Prime Minister was not seen at the Meskel Square celebration. There were military parade and airshows performances.
President Sahle-Work Zewde and Defense Chief of Staff Marshal Berhanu Jula made speeches.
Borkena reporter cited the Defense Chief as saying “ “War is a communal struggle. It is not the act of limited group members or individuals. Groups and individuals may take the credit for playing the major roles and thereby becoming a model to nurture the new generation. However, it is the broad mass that makes history of victory.”
The question that Ethiopians are asking is why the Ethiopian government appeared to be determined to delete the leadership role and contribution of Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taytu Betul in the war only because radical ethnic Oromo nationalist forces have a distorted understanding of the period of our history and the leadership of Emperor Menelik.
From sabotaging the printing press not to print t-shirts with the image of emperor Menelik to banning T-shirts with Ethiopia’s tricolor are all begging questions.
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