Thousands in Addis chant for Birtukan’s release – Ethiomedia
ADDIS ABABA – Athletes taking part in the annual Great Run in Addis Ababa chanted slogans that called for the release of jailed opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa.
Political rallies are unofficially banned in Ethiopia, and the yearly event where worldclass athletes also compete is used as a rare political platform to vent public anger against the resented government of anti-Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi.
The online Ethiopia Zare reported on Sunday runners hailed Birtukan, leader of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) as the Mandela of Ethiopia, and called for her immediate release.
Birtukan has been in jail since December last year, and her arrest, according to Merera Gudina, leader of the eight-party coalition Medrek, was based clearly on Meles Zenawi’s morbid fear that she would mobilize millions of Ethiopians that can lead to a regime change.
The online journal warned Ethiopia was heading into a political uncertainty with a growing size of unemployed mass sagging beneath unemployment, hunger and widespread poverty worsening with each passing year.
Meles Zenawi has been in power since 1991, and Ethiopia has changed from bad to worse with millions surviving on international food handouts that is even being used as a political weapon by the mercenary regime.
The online journal also reported runners also condemned Hailu Shawel, an opposition leader who sparked public uproar when he joined the Meles Zenawi camp recently.
Hailu’s act was seen by the public as a betrayal that came through while an eight-party coalition Medrek was in a tug-of-war with the Zenawi regime to get certain demands addressed before the 2010 election are conducted.
The state-owned media projects Medrek as hateful, divisive and violence-driven, although the public sees the giant opposition party as the “Kinijit of the 2005 polls.” Kinijit was torn to pieces by Zenawi following Kinijit’s short-lived victory at the last polls, and all hopes are pinned on Medrek and other opposition parties that are struggling to end Zenawi’s rule that has proven detrimental to Ethiopia’s existence.
Similar anti-government slogans were chanted at previous Great Runs.
On Friday, PANA news agency reported about 33,000 athtletes, 200 of them from overseas, had registered to take part in the yearly event.
World famous athletes, including British’s Paula Radcliffe, were in Addis for the ninth edition of the Great Run sponsored this time by Ethiopian Airlines, Pana said.