By David Smith*
Democracy activists in Ethiopia have called for “a day of rage” on Saturday in the hope of joining anti-government protests sweeping Africa. An online campaign entitled Beka! – meaning “enough” in the Amharic language – aims to mobilise thousands of people against prime minister Meles Zenawi‘s two-decade authoritarian rule.
The organisers cite this year’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as their inspiration. Recent months have also witnessed civil unrest in Uganda, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Botswana The day of rage has been set for 28 May because it marks the 20th anniversary of Zenawi’s rebels capturing the capital, Addis Ababa, during the civil war against the Derg military junta.
The activists’ Facebook page, which shows some 3,000 people confirming they will attend, states: “There is no reason why we cannot have the Arab uprising in Ethiopia. We have resolved to bring the torch to Ethiopia, and liberate the country from the minority dictatorship that has been in power for more than 20 years.”
The main grievances are familiar: high unemployment, rising costs of living and criticism of the government’s record on democracy and human rights. But hopes of a mass mobilisation could be dashed by Ethiopia’s relatively low use of the internet and mobile phones. Street protests erupted after Meles’s disputed 2005 election win. More than 200 people died amid bloody battles between protesters and police. Some government officials believed then that the opposition was trying to provoke a revolution.
The Arab spring has put the government back on alert. Zenawi proclaimed in March: “We are not worried that there will be a north Africa-type revolution in Ethiopia, it’s simply not possible. The circumstances for it do not exist.” But party insiders say they have been meeting constantly to discuss such scenarios, Reuters has reported, while opposition figures said in March that hundreds of their members were rounded up to nip any potential uprising in the bud. The authorities said the people were members of an outlawed “terrorist” group.
Full Story ( The Guardian UK – ‘day of rage’ hopes to oust Meles Zenawi from power)