Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa on Friday saw hundreds of thousands of joyous people performing prayers as part of nationwide Eid al-Fitr celebration in the horn of African country, whose Muslim population is the second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria.
Seasonal rains abated to give way to refreshed men, women, children and elders gathered at the city center chanting Allahu Akbar or God is great.
The huge gathering was joined by dignitaries from the government and Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.
Speaking at the occasion, Mayor Diriba Kuma said Ethiopia – a pluralist nation – has a Constitution that gives religious equality to all.
He said that recently the country has embarked upon reconciliation and reform measures aimed at improving living conditions and enhancing national unity.
Sheikh Mohammed Sherif, head of the Addis Ababa Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, told the gathering: “This year’s Eid celebration is special as it came at this particular time when the government gave express emphasis to unity after so several years of tensions.”
Relative peace prevailed in Ethiopia and people’s hopes revived after the coming to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed two months ago, stressing fast-track reforms and reconciliation including the release of political prisoners and Muslims detained on what many call trumped-up charges.
Renowned author and journalist Zekeriya Mohammed told Anadolu Agency that this year’s Eid celebration — and the holy month of Ramadan before it — is special in more ways than one.
“I can say that this year’s Eid al-Fitr is so special in that it is being observed in an atmosphere of ongoing political changes in our country,” he said. “As with the past couple of years, during this year’s Ramadan the Muslim community were passionately praying towards Allah to help the nation sustain this positive development.”
He added: “The Ethiopian Muslim community pioneered a peaceful resistance movement against government interference in religious affairs from 2011 to 2014.”
“Although the Muslims’ peaceful resistance movement didn’t achieve its desired results in full yet, I believe it certainly inspired the nationwide Oromo protests that followed and which resulted in the present political changes in the country,” he said.
He said that although Muslims’ demands had to do with constitutionally enshrined religious rights, community representatives were thrown into jail with false charges of terrorism and other offenses.
“Thanks to Allah, the Most Exalted, all the leaders of the movement have now been released after enduring four years of unjust prison terms,” he said.
“That has added to the joy of the Muslim community, and all the Muslim community representatives are celebrating Eid al-Fitr with their community for whose cause they made the dearest sacrifices,” he added.