Following months of anti-government protests by the country’s two largest ethnic groups, Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency. The protesting Oromo and Amhara who are about 60% of the population have virtually thrown the government into confusion. They complain that power is held by a tiny Tigrean elite. Violence has intensified since last Sunday when at least 55 people were killed in clashes between police and protesters at an Oromo festival. Hundreds have died in months of protests, human rights groups say.
Tens of thousands have also been detained, they say. Declaring the state of emergency, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, said in a televised address that the citizens’ safety was key.
“Besides, we want to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, education institutions, health centres, administration and justice buildings.”
The state of emergency will last for six months. The protesters have been attacking foreign companies, threatening Ethiopia’s reputation as a growing economy, ripe for international investment. The details of the state of emergency remain unclear, but she adds that protesters have already shown they will not back down when faced with force.
Many roads into and out of the capital, Addis Ababa, are blocked by protesters. The protests are for manifold reason, and include; “Muslims unhappy at the imposition of government-approved leaders and farmers’ displacement to make way for commercial agriculture’’.
The Amharic communities opposed to their inclusion in Tigre rather than the Amhara region and the discontent among groups in various parts of the vast Oromia region. In the most recent unrest in Oromia, at least 55 people were killed in a stampede triggered by clashes between police and demonstrators at the annual Ireecha celebrations – a traditional Oromo seasonal festival.