Ma­ny Ethio­pi­an pro­tes­tors dead : “We need jus­ti­ce”

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

ETHIOPIA - Po­li­ce in Ethiopia’s Oro­miya re­gi­on fired tear­gas and warning shots to dis­per­se an­ti-govern­ment pro­tes­ters at a re­li­gious fes­ti­val, trig­ge­ring a stam­pe­de the op­po­si­ti­on par­ty said kil­led at least 50 pe­o­p­le. The govern­ment did not gi­ve a pre­ci­se de­ath toll re­sul­ting from cha­o­tic sce­nes on Sun­day du­ring the an­nu­al fes­ti­val, whe­re so­me pe­o­p­le chan­ted slo­gans against the govern­ment and wa­ved a re­bel flag. But it said “li­ves we­re lost” and that se­ve­r­al we­re in­ju­red. Spo­ra­dic pro­tests ha­ve erup­ted in Oro­miya in the last two ye­ars, ini­ti­al­ly spar­ked by a land row but in­cre­a­sin­gly turning mo­re broad­ly against the govern­ment. Sin­ce la­te 2015, sco­res of pro­tes­ters ha­ve been kil­led in clas­hes with po­li­ce. The­se de­vel­op­ments high­light ten­si­ons in the coun­try whe­re the govern­ment has de­li­ve­r­ed stel­lar eco­no­mic growth ra­tes but fa­ced cri­ti­cism from op­po­nents and rights group that it has trampled on po­li­ti­cal free­doms. Thou­sands of pe­o­p­le had gat­he­red for the an­nu­al Ir­reecha fes­ti­val of thanks­gi­ving in the to­wn of Bis­hoftu, about 25 40km south of the ca­pi­tal, Ad­dis Aba­ba. Crowds chan­ted “we need free­dom” and “we need jus­ti­ce”, pre­ven­ting com­mu­ni­ty el­ders, dee­med clo­se to the govern­ment, from de­li­ve­ring spee­ches at the fes­ti­val. So­me pro­tes­ters wa­ved the red, green and yel­low flag of the Oro­mo Li­be­ra­ti­on Front, a re­bel group brand­ed a ter­ro­rist or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on by the govern­ment, wit­nes­ses said. When po­li­ce fired tear­gas and guns in­to the air, crowds fled and cre­a­ted a stam­pe­de, so­me of them plun­ging in­to a ditch, ac­cor­ding to wit­nes­ses. The wit­nes­ses said they saw pe­o­p­le drag­ging out a do­zen or mo­re vic­tims, showing no ob­vious sign of li­fe. Half a do­zen pe­o­p­le, al­so mo­ti­on­less, we­re seen being ta­ken by pick-up truck to a hos­pi­tal, one wit­ness said. “As a re­sult of the cha­os, li­ves we­re lost and se­ve­r­al of the in­ju­red we­re ta­ken to hos­pi­tal,” the govern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons of­fi­ce said in a sta­te­ment. “Tho­se res­pon­si­ble will fa­ce jus­ti­ce.” Me­re­ra Gu­di­na, the chair­man of the op­po­si­ti­on Oro­mo Fe­dera­list Con­gress, told Reu­ters at least 50 pe­o­p­le we­re kil­led, saying his group had been tal­king to fa­mi­lies of the vic­tims. He said the govern­ment tried to use the event to show Oro­miya was calm. “But re­si­dents still pro­tested,” he said. The govern­ment bla­mes re­bel groups and dis­si­dents abroad for stir­ring up the pro­tests and pro­vo­king vi­o­len­ce. It dis­mis­ses char­ges that it clamps down on free speech or its op­po­nents.


Pro­tes­ters run from tear­gas in Bis­hoftu. (Pho­to: Reu­ters)

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