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Pole to Pole

Day 82: Addis Ababa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleChildren wearing 'New Kids on the Block' T-shirts shout 'Money! . . . money!' at us. Above their heads hammer and sickles in lights still hang from the lamp-posts.

Rumour reaches us that a big crowd is heading for the square to demonstrate in favour of the United Democratic Nationals, a party opposed to the government's plans to allow self-determination to Eritrea and any other independently-minded provinces. A couple of police jeeps with machine-guns mounted in the back cruise anxiously. Any form of public protest has been unheard of for so long that the general mood in the approaching crowd seems celebratory. But as the first flag-waving rows of demonstrators reach the square, there is a sound of crackling gunfire. Some people throw themselves to the ground, and we make a brisk retreat towards our vehicles.

Gunfire breaks out again, and for a moment it looks as if there will be panic. Members of the crowd are running towards the centre of the square. Whoever, or whatever, tried to stop them has been silenced. Apart from a lady from Agence Presse we seem to be the only foreigners present. As our brief is to get to the South Pole in one piece rather than be Kate Adie we leave the field open to Agence Presse. There are no further incidents but over 10,000 people are later reported to have protested against the new government.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 82
  • Country/sea: Ethiopia
  • Place: Addis Ababa
  • Book page no: 180

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