Ethiopian security forces kill dozens of anti-government protesters

Ethiopia | Violent crackdown on opposition sparks fears over the country’s stability
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 8/09/16, 09:43 am

Ethiopia’s security forces killed dozens of protesters in anti-government rallies across the country over the weekend, residents and opposition officials said yesterday. While the violent crack-down is designed to squelch opposition, analysts say it could make it worse.

Security forces killed at least 67 people in the Oromia region and another 30 people in the Amhara region’s northern city of Bahir Dar, according to Amnesty International. Police detained hundreds of others, the human rights group said. The government also blocked access to the internet over the weekend, blaming online activists and “anti-peace elements” based abroad for the violence.

“We will not tolerate bodies that aim to overthrow the government and the constitutional order of the country by force,” Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen told Ethiopia’s Fana Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

Ethiopia has seen protests across the country in recent months as people voice frustration with the government. Unrest roiled Ethiopia’s Oromia region for several months after the government announced plans to allocate farmland for development. Officials retracted the project, but the protests have continued over the ongoing detention of opposition demonstrators. Mulatu Gemechu, a member of the opposing Oromo Federalist Congress party, said officials killed more than 70 people in the Oromia region.

“Many others were injured and we lost count of the number of those who were arrested,” he said.

In the Amhara region, residents protested to urge the government to reinstate an area of locally controlled land. But renewed protests began last week after the government arrested some members of a committee set up to oversee the project. Protesters chanted anti-government slogans while waving dissident flags. Others demanded the release of opposition members.

Seyoum Teshome, a blogger who monitored the demonstrations, said the government replaced regional police forces with the army, leaving many areas under military control.

Ethiopia is a Western ally in the fight against Islamic militants in neighboring Somalia, but the country’s own political unrest could strain that relationship. The U.S. Embassy said in a statement it was “deeply concerned with the extensive violence.” Some witnesses worry the violent crackdown on protesters could further add to the frustration many feel toward the government.

“They appear to be low-level, quite disorganized protests scattered all around,” one diplomat told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity. “The brutal response of the government risks provoking more anger and making it worse.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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