Tens of thousands of people attended a government-organized protest in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, three days after the Islamic State in Libya issued a video purporting to show the murder of about 30 migrants from the Horn of Africa nation.
People at Wednesday’s demonstration, which was marked by clashes between youths and police, took part to express concern over their compatriots’ killings and ask the authorities to “take action,” according to Mayor Diriba Kuma.
“We have to unite and come together and fight the terrorist groups in the country and al-Shabaab” Islamist militants in Somalia, Diriba said by phone from the capital.
A video on a militant website at the weekend showed the Libyan branch of Islamic State beheading and shooting two groups of captives, saying they belonged to a “hostile” Ethiopian Orthodox Church that has killed Muslims. Ethiopia’s military is battling al-Shabaab in neighboring Somalia.
Four victims in the video have so far been identified as Ethiopians by their families, Communications Minister Redwan Hussien said on Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians leave for the Middle East, Europe and other African nations every year seeking better opportunities. Ethiopia’s per capita income of $470 is “substantially lower” than the region’s average, according to the World Bank.
The government and the people should fight extremists, combat human traffickers and create jobs, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in an address at the demonstration in the capital’s central Meskel Square, according to the pro-government Fana Broadcasting Corp.
A history of religious tolerance means Ethiopians won’t be divided by the Islamist militants’ actions, he said. Almost 34 percent of Ethiopia’s 97 million population are Muslims and nearly all the rest Christians, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Riot police clashed with a minority of stone-throwing protesters on the edge of the demonstration, Diriba said.
Attendees became angry after hearing the “usual politics” from their leaders, said Merkeb Yifru, a 22-year-old protester, whose friend had a video deleted and was punched in the face by federal police.
“People were marching and saying the government has sold us out and is not there for us,” he said in an interview. “It’s poverty making people seek work elsewhere.”
Redwan accused the opposition Blue Party of orchestrating the violence. Around 25 “ringleaders” are being investigated by police, he said by phone from the capital. Members of the group were detained prior to the demonstration and beaten during it, said spokesman Yonatan Tesfaye.
The party took part in the demonstration to show solidarity with the victims’ families and ask for change, he said by phone on Wednesday. “The root cause for all this is a lack of democracy and good governance,” he said from Addis Ababa.