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New Ethiopian Party Hopes to Stage Anti-government Rally

Ethiopians demonstrate against what they say is a recent wave of religious extremism, at Meskel Square in the capital, Addis Ababa, September 1, 2013.
Ethiopia’s youngest opposition party, the Blue Party, says it will try again to hold a demonstration against the government. The party had planned to hold a protest this past weekend, but was stopped when more than 100 members were arrested.

The Blue Party held a successful demonstration against the government in June, Ethiopia's first anti-government protest in eight years.

The party planned to hold another one on Sunday. The protest never materialized, however, after police raided the party office the day before, arresting more than 100 party members. The party says police also beat party members and confiscated equipment.

Blue Party Chairman Yilkal Getnet said all arrested members were released, but the party will go to court to seek compensation. “For all the wrong doings what the municipalities and the Addis Ababa police commission has done, that was illegal, that was against the constitution, that was against the proclamation for peaceful demonstration. We will make it a legal case. All the materials they took, the sound systems, the generators, the flyers, the logos, more than 500,000 Ethiopian birr ($26,000) is estimated [for] all the destructions,” said Yilkal.

The party says it holds the City Council and the Addis Ababa police accountable for the raid.

The Blue Party was established in August 2012. Their first protest in Addis Ababa in June attracted thousands of demonstrators. The party announced that if the Ethiopian government did not listen to their demands, such as releasing political prisoners, another demonstration would be staged in three months.

Yilkal said they have not received a response to their demands from the government. “The government is not interested to answer all our questions. They rather resent us, they try to crush the party, and false accusations against the party leaders and the party.”

The Ethiopian government organized an anti-extremism rally Sunday at the same time the Blue Party had planned their protest. More than 40,000 demonstrators showed up, but some say they were forced to attend by local authorities.

Government spokesman Getachew Redda said the only reason the Blue Party could not hold its protest was for security reasons. He said a clear distinction should be made between those who want to demonstrate and those who want to sabotage.

The official denied Blue Party members were beaten by police, and he said he doubts the Blue Party has 100 members.