More than 50,000 people have marched through Ethiopia's capital, protesting government plans to solve its border dispute with Eritrea. Opposition activists and lawmakers called for the rally in Addis Ababa today, accusing the government of prime minister Meles Zenawi of bowing to Eritrea's demands. A former government official, Gebru Asrat, criticized Mr. Meles for drafting a plan that would give land to Eritrea.
In November, Ethiopia's government said it had accepted "in principle" an independent commission's ruling that Ethiopia hand over disputed land to Eritrea. Ethiopia also called for new talks with eritrea in an effort to end the dispute, which sparked a two-year war. Eritrea's government has rejected the meetings, saying Ethiopia must fully comply with the commission's ruling.
Professor Kinfe Abraham heads the Ethiopian International Institute of Peace and Development in Addis Ababa. He told VOA reporter William Eagle that the protests are an opportunity for opposition groups to try to make Prime Minister Meles weak ahead of upcoming elections. He says the opposition claims that head of state’s plan to negotiate territory with Eritrea has not been put to voters. Professor Kinfe disagrees – saying that the parliament approved of Mr. Meles’ plans.