News / Africa

Ethiopian Muslims Stage Eid Protests

Ethiopian Muslims attend prayers during Eid al-Fitr, Addis Ababa Aug. 8, 2013.
Ethiopian Muslims attend prayers during Eid al-Fitr, Addis Ababa Aug. 8, 2013.
Muslims in Ethiopia protested in the capital Addis Ababa during Eid al-Fitr prayers on Thursday, part of a two-year-old campaign against what they say is government interference in their religious affairs.
A heavy police presence around the city's stadium — the venue for morning prayers — marked a tense run-up to the Muslim holiday after clashes between Muslims and police killed up to five people last week in Ethiopia's south.
Demonstrators chanted "Allahu Akbar" and hoisted banners that read "respect the constitution," referring to allegations that the government has tried to influence the highest Muslim affairs body, the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.
Ethiopia, long seen by the West as a bulwark against militant Islam in the Horn of Africa, denies the claims but says it fears militancy is taking root in the country.
"These were Salafist elements who tried to create disturbances as the crowd went back to their homes," government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told Reuters, referring to the ultraconservative brand of Islam followed by al Qaeda.
"They have no following among the population but still tried to make it look like a protest. A few have been arrested."
Muslims make up about a third of the population in the majority Christian nation of 85 million, and the vast majority follow the moderate, Sufi version of Islam.
Some have been staging mosque sit-ins and street protests in the capital for almost two years. They accuse the government of promoting an "alien" branch of Islam — the Al Ahbash sect — which is avowedly apolitical.
The government denies that, and protesters' allegations that authorities tried to rig elections to the Islamic council earlier this year.
Shimeles said the protesters aimed to set up an Islamic state in the country and were bankrolled and guided by "extremists" overseas.
Thursday's incidents followed clashes in Kofele in Ethiopia's Oromiya region, where government officials said Muslims wielding machetes and arms clashed with police, killing police officers and civilians. The protesters blamed the authorities for the incident.
Last year, police arrested 29 members of a committee that called for protests, accusing them of "planning to commit terrorist acts."
Amnesty International urged Ethiopia on Thursday to end "its use of repressive tactics" against the demonstrators.

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Comments page of 2
by: Michael Adane
August 10, 2013 7:09 AM
A correction on the reality check from Oakland it is not the whole Friday. It is about 2 hours after lunch break that public offices closed. The Muslims gave credit to this development. This itself enabled the ruling party to silence the Ethiopian Muslims when the ruling party was appointing cadres as their leaders for almost 2 decades. The Muslims begin to protest when these cadres were ordered and begin to enforce the Habash sect of Islam on them. The world has to understand that inspite of the governments principle of divide and rule, the Ethiopian Muslims are very moderate and liberal. The danger is extremists can emerge as the supression and the acampanying governement propaganda continues. The Muslims case is just a glimpse of the diverse suppression of freedom in the country. Do not forget that dozens of journalists and oppostion leaders are in exile or in prison. Recently A European Union deligation was denied access to visit prisoners of conscience in the Ethiopian 'prison village' in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. There are hardly any free civic organizations in Ethiopia. Please, read reports from US state department; Amnesty International, Human rights watch, CPJ, etc.
In Response

by: Muna
August 10, 2013 1:56 PM
Michael, are you kidding? Meanwhile in Muslim countries, Christian women have to hide their cross necklace or they get beaten by religious police!

by: Dawit from: Oakland, CA
August 09, 2013 7:31 PM
Reality check, Christian majority Ethiopia closes all public offices EVERY FRIDAY as respect for Muslim holy prayers. Who else does that?

But radicals satisfied only with Sharia law for everyone.

by: asena from: frankfurt
August 09, 2013 6:40 PM
The Ethiopian government must continue to oppress the Muslims. They are dangerous, extremists, abusive, secretive, controlling. The last thing we need is al-Qaeda based government because we listened to AMNESTY(for profit) organization that does not even care on bit about Ethiopia. Remember, it has it's own policy! and Ethiopia isn't one of them. Fanatical muslims along with Negaso and his diaspora friends are all culprits.
In Response

by: abduLLAHİ from: addisABABA
August 17, 2013 6:13 PM
In Response

by: Ethiopic from: USA
August 13, 2013 11:16 AM
When a Muslim demands his rights be respected, he is a terrorist. I guess you are used to being looked down at, insulted, subjugated and called as an "ouslander" in Frankfurt. Don't forget nearly half of Ethiopia's population is Muslim whether you like it or not. Muslims have every right to the country as their Orthodox brothers and sisters and the others with different beliefs.

by: Munir A. from: Glasgow
August 09, 2013 5:27 PM
Amnesty International $1 million corrupt pay-off bonuses using "non-profit" money revealed long ago by UK's Daily Mail. Hypocritical fundraising machine, period.

by: Challa from: juba
August 09, 2013 4:52 PM
It is funny. Ethiopian government tries to defend the political problems by mixing human right with terrorism. They demonstrate for free religious practice, nothing else. anybody who comes against the government is terrorist. But they knows that they get support from US. No worries, our enemy is US who pretend to support us but killing the vital areas: democracy and freed dome of speech. But why USA is doing on us and Africa?
In Response

by: asena from: frankfurt
August 18, 2013 12:09 AM
Because the USA has policy. To keep that area stable no matter what. Ethiopia is a US puppet. There are US, UN and CHINA puppets. No country has more power than these two along with UN. Its all about policy,

by: Wosen from: Europe
August 09, 2013 4:44 PM
I have never supported the current rebel government. But when I heard this extremism "fire" expanding southwards from North Africa to Ethiopia, I got really worried. I urge everyone to realize that this is like playing with fire. No boko haram please! We Ethiopians, are a different bred to the Nigerians. Because we are all proud and patriotic people, and we are first Ethiopians and then Christians or Muslims. We put our country first, before our religion. And when that is reversed (through radicalization), that will lead to a slippery slope, and that is where countries like Nigeria and Northern Africans find themselves in. In the end, I fully support the government in its actions.
In Response

by: Ethiopic from: USA
August 13, 2013 11:28 AM
Wosen and fellow Ethiopians of all faith. Like you said "we are Ethiopians first... then whatever faith we may be". I am absolutely with you on that. However one has to understand what the root cause of the issue here. It is not up to the government or anybody to tell you how to worship in your respective faith and dos and don'ts. While I do not follow any organized faith, I don't need the state to tell me that I should worship this way or that way. There should be a separation between faith and the state as it is everywhere (Except Saudi Arabia). We need to understand what they are asking for, then judge whether they are right or wrong.

by: Siyum
August 09, 2013 2:52 PM
I am a christian Ethiopian living in Ethiopia unlike most of the commentors here. For anyone that cares about the truth, the government is Terrorising the people and it wishes for them to be terrorists to get more foreign aid to embezel but they have refussed. well done Ethiopian muslims. I have seen the brutal mass beating of Women, children and elder people by geared up "Federal" police most of which were not speaking the main local language but rather the language of the Highly feared, brutal, special military unit set up by the now deceased leader of Ethiopia which is called the AGAZI. if you all remember the same unit was responcible for the deaths of more than 100 Ethiopians in the 2003 election. Half of the real Federal police units there were equally appalled by the action undertaken on August 8 and were heard saying "wey eda!" which is an amharic saying meaning "What a burdon!"

by: Demitu
August 09, 2013 10:30 AM
It should be noted that the 29 committee memebrs who are now in prison are elected by the Muslim community. When the government knew that they are strong enough to defend their freedom of religion, they were criminalized as terrorists and agents of foreign elements. The governments MOTO is if you cannot control it eliminate it.

by: Awot
August 09, 2013 4:54 AM
The government follows a political line which it calls revolutionary democracy, which highly centralized. According to this government any one who claims her/his rights, is a terrorist. Any group that claims collective rights is jailed and charged for treason. The Ethiopian Muslims are victims of this political line. Few months ago the Archbishop was handpicked by the ruling party as was his predecessor. The Old Synod and the Archbishop live in exile. The government attempts to threaten the public by labeling and sectarian divide. This is a dangerous move for the country and for region.

by: Ghion from: Addis Ababa Ethiopia
August 09, 2013 1:39 AM
Ethiopia takes its historical pride by being multicultural, religions, ethnics and so forth. It is unfortunate the byes media outlets mostly reports and concentrates on the negative side of the government never to the instigator of the violence from the first place.
The government has a responsibility to protect the people, their properties and the nation of Ethiopia in general.
No government, no sensible citizen of Ethiopia will allow Ethiopia to become a headquarter or a training ground for Al-Qaeda and Saudi's extremists.

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