Yonas Tadesse / AFP / Getty Images
Tens of thousands of people gathered on flags in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Saturday, looking for a reformist leader whose term of office is just months away. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was in central Meskel Square to give a speech – but not long after he was done, a deadly explosion unleashed the crowd.
At least one person died and more was wounded in the blast and its consequences. Of the more than 150 people who have suffered injuries, eight are in critical condition at night on Saturday night, after the country's Minister of Health.
The Prime Minister, for his part, resigned from the "We will overcome hate with love." Some whose hearts are full of hatred attempted a grenade attack, "said Abyi's chief of staff Fitsum Arega on Twitter adding," The perpetrators will be brought to justice. "
We will overcome hatred with love. Some, whose heart is full of hate, tried a grenade attack. HE PM Abiy is safe. All the victims are martyrs of love and peace. HE PM sends its condolences to the victims. The perpetrators are brought to justice. #Ethiopia ፍቅርያሸንፋል
– Fitsum Arega (@fitsumaregaa) June 23, 2018
Authorities have not clarified who exactly these offenders believe. He spoke shortly after the rally with the country and described the attackers as "anti-peacekeepers."
"You must stop it," he said, addressing his comments to unnamed offenders. "You have not been successful in the past, and you will not be successful in the future."
Footage of the explosion and its aftermath appeared shortly thereafter, showing scenes of panic rippling the crowd immediately after a loud bang in their audience
VIDEO: At a mass rally by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the heart of Addis Ababa One person has died and dozens of others have been injured after a grenade exploded in a crowd of tens of thousands. Witter.com / FYjAzl553d
– AFP news agency (@AFP) 23 Jun 2018
Eine Camera trained on Abiy
In the video, the premier sits on stage after his speech listening to the next speaker as the explosion sounds and creates confusion between Abiy and the people around him. Soon, members of Abyy's security department seem to recognize the situation and quickly bring him to safety.
Update: A picture of the Ethiopian News Agency shows PM #AbiyAhmed abducted by his security detail. A faint sound of the explosion can be heard over the MC thanking the Ethiopians watching the program from abroad. The crowd disperses and no further warning now. pic.twitter.com/Ls0n6oPWIs
– Addis Standard (@addisstandard) June 23, 2018
The organizer of the rally, Seyoum Teshome, told the New York Times, he believes that the The Prime Minister's attack was a target, "because the suspect was aiming to throw the grenade on the right side of the stage where he sat."
He said that the intervention of people around the attacker interfered with the assassination attempt. Most of the victims suffered their wounds "not because of the grenade, but rather because of the mass panic, they just ran away from this spot," said Seyoum Agence France-Presse.
Although Abiy was not in power for long before he became prime minister in April, he spent little time on an agenda of rapid change in one country that had been suppressing disagreement for years. He released political prisoners, lifted the state of emergency and said earlier this month that his government would fully accept a year-long peace deal with neighboring Eritrea.
He also sought to facilitate peace talks between conflicting parties in South Sudan
The Ambassador of Eritrea in Japan, Estifanos Afeworki, said on Saturday that his country was "trying to provoke violence" at the demonstration sharply condemned in Addis Ababa.
The US Embassy in the Ethiopian capital intervened with its own condemnation that "violence has no place as Ethiopia carries out meaningful political and economic reforms."
Meanwhile, Abiy spent his evening visiting the victims at the hospital
"They told them that they represent the true spirit of love, forgiveness, and togetherness," said Fitsum, Abiy's chief of staff, at the Saturday. "They are all our inspiration, our courage and a true reminder of what is good in us."