ADDIS ABABA — Thousands of Ethiopians demonstrated Sunday in Addis Ababa, the first political protest against the country’s ruling party since 2005.
The demonstrators were shouting they wanted their human rights to be ensured, that political and religious prisoners should be released, and accusing state television of only broadcasting propaganda.
“We have been raising lots of questions for the government and one is to release those political party leaders and journalists," said Getaneh Banch, a member of the Blue Party, the opposition party that organized the demonstration. "And we have been also calling for the government to release also those who have been dislocated from their locations, because of their ethnic background."
This was the first political demonstration since the 2005 elections, after which many protesters and opposition leaders were imprisoned.
One of the opposition leaders jailed after the 2005 elections, Jacob Hailemariam, says this demonstration is significant for Ethiopia.
“This will definitely encourage people to demand their rights that they have been very quite about, until today," he said.
Many of the protesters were young men with a Muslim background who do not necessarily support the Blue Party, but do feel a change in government is needed.
"I am not happy with the political party of this nation," said Mustafa, a high-school teacher. "I never support this party because if I am a citizen I can not believe in what I believe. We are suffering too much, our leaders are in prison.”
University student Shimelis says he does not expect any immediate change, but still feels it is important to be present.
“When we demonstrate, we express our idea, we express our thinking to the government and to the international community," he said.
The Blue Party says it will organize more demonstrations if Ethiopia's ruling party does not respond to its demands within three months.