Thousands of people are protesting in Gonder city now mainly calling for the release of Welkait Amhara Identity Committee members detained earlier this month and to assert that the Welkait people are Amhara but not Tigre.
The peaceful demo was blessed by the leaders of the main religions
The current protest in Gonder has been called to seek the release of the members of the Welkait Amhara Identity Committee. The members of the committee were nabbed by Ethiopian securities for alleged links with rebel groups and the Eritrean government. The Committee members claim no association with neither. Following their arrest, a large protest broke out in Gonder resulting in the death of several police officers and civilians as well as the selective attack of the properties of pro government individuals.
The UK government, the UN and other agencies have issued travel warning to their citizens to Gonder since July 13.
The government of the region yesterday issued a statement saying that the planned protest was illegal and no permit has been issued.
However, the people of Gonder have reportedly continued preparing banners and placards for tomorrow’s protest. The protest is now underway drawing a large number of people across all age groups despite huge presence of “intimidating” government soldiers.
They blocked the internet in Gondar, trying to stop these patriotic images. Gondar trampling all over weyane flag! pic.twitter.com/8lafSTIAXW
— Liya B. Tefferi (@LiyanaTefferi) July 31, 2016
— Belay manaye (@Belay_Ma) July 31, 2016
Several hundreds of tourists, who had planned to visit places in the Northern parts of the country have cancelled their bookings after rumors and reports about a planned protest in Gonder and other major towns of the Amhara regions on July 31, 2016.
Gonder protesters expressed their support to Oromo Protesters and called the government to stop the crackdown.
Some of the placards and slogans today included “”We are Amhara, and we are one!, Welkait is Amhara, stop killing our brothers in Oromo region, stop mass killing Amhara people, Woaynee Leba, Bereket Leba! Amhara is Welkait, Respect Amhara, Kimant and Amhara are one, Gonder’s border is Tekeze River, Shabia’s messenger is TPLF not the people of Welkait, Colonel Demeke Zewdu should immediately be released, Let our voices be heard, ”
Although heavily armed members of the Defense Force and a special commando were deployed in the city, local regional police have showed solidarity with the protesters.
The national broadcaster and party radios were not spared
The protesters are carrying the first Ethiopian flag of Green Yellow Red with no sign or emblem on it. The current government has legally prohibited the carrying of any type of Ethiopia flag other than the tricolor with a national emblem in the center.
The protesters were joined by a large number of crowd returning from Sunday Mass.
The protest will be completed by electing a new Committee to oversee future actions of the Welkait people and strong demands that the protest will not stop until the detained committee members are released.
The center of the protest call has been for the release of Colonel Demeke Zewdu (above), who had been a rebel fighter along with the current ruling Front during the 1980s and later served the National Defense Force even travelling under the UN peacekeeping force abroad. Colonel Demeke has been at the forefront of the movement for the call of Welkait Amhara Identity arguing that the Welakit people are Amhara not Tigre and should be administered under the Amhara region.
Protesters have come from Gonder city, vicinity and suburb including youth, women and children, and some armed farmers.
It has so far been peaceful.