Car horns blared, crowds cheered and small children
waved flags and home-made banners.
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Addis Ababa
Passers-by stopped in the street to give each other the V-for-victory
sign which has come to symbolise one of Ethiopia's
main opposition parties, the Coalition for
Unity and Democracy (CUD).
The opposition say that after 10 years, it is time for a change
Election fever hit Ethiopia last weekend as hundreds
of thousands took to the streets ahead of the country's third multi-party general elections on Sunday.
But it is quite a different picture in
some of the more rural areas, where finding enough food to eat is most people's priority.
Supporters of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic
Front (EPRDF) packed into Meskel
Square in the heart of the capital, Addis Ababa, on Saturday.
On Sunday it was the opposition's turn.
Huge groups ran through the streets shouting and singing,
waving flags and banners.
One opposition supporter said: "In our
country there are many problems - that's why so many
people are taking part in this rally.
"It is time to
take down this government. We have lived with this
government for 14 years and it does not represent the
country, it does not represent the people."
At Dodata feeding centre near the city of Harar, 400km east of the capital, the
election was the last thing on anyone's mind.
An appeal by the UN children's agency this week said that
163,000 children across the country were severely
malnourished and could die within days without
All their mothers can think about is keeping those children alive.
One woman told me she didn't even know there was an
In the south-eastern Somali Region - the second
biggest in the country with a population of about 3.5
million - the election is just a distant reality.
That is because the election in the Somali region won't
not be carried out until August.
Tesfaye Mengesha, acting head of the National
Electoral Board, explained that it was because the
population is made up of nomadic pastoralists.
"We use in that region a mobile voters registration
system. To apply that system we have to use much of
our manpower and our vehicles. So after we
finished the election execution in other regions we
will turn our attention to the Somali region."
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stormed into
Addis Ababa as a guerrilla in 1991 with his band of
freedom fighters - the Tigrayan People's Liberation
Front, having defeated Mengistu Haile Mariam's communist regime.
Initially there was a transitional government before the
first elections were held in 1995.
A government was formed from a group of coalition parties - the
and Mr Meles became prime minister.
The road towards democracy has not been an easy one and
there is still a long way to go.
There have been many
obstacles along the way - a population explosion,
droughts and also, perhaps most significantly, the war
with Eritrea which many people believe undermined much
of the progress made by the EPRDF until 1997.
In rural areas, food is more important than the election
State Information Minister Netsannet Asfaw said: "Democracy is a process and I am highly
encouraged by the improvements.
"First and foremost
people are now aware of their rights, that they have
to vote. I'm highly encouraged that 25 million people
are registered to vote. "
Many people are very concerned about Ethiopia's
Opposition parties say they have
been subject to harassment, abuse and in some
instances even violence in the run-up to the
Beyene Petros, vice-chair of the United
Ethiopian Democratic Force (UEDF) said that violence
threatened the promise of free and fair elections.
A report out this week by Human Rights Watch accused
the government of systematic political repression in
the Oromia region, which made the elections a "hollow
Meles Zenawi has won both of Ethiopia's multi-party elections
The government has dismissed the accusations as a
"pack of lies".
While the claims and counter-claims go on, there does
seem to be some room for hope.
Large groups of the
population are getting into the election spirit and
while the government looks set to win maybe things are
starting to change.
Desalegn Rahamato from the Forum for Social Studies
based in Addis Ababa said "We do not expect a miracle, certainly nobody expects the government to lose but we are hoping that the composition of parliament will change substantially so there will be more opposition members of parliament."