Ethiopia’s Oromo Chaos Flares Up Again, Dozens Killed

Written by Kevin Mwanza

Dozens of people including police officers were killed over the weekend in one of the deadliest clashes since citizens started agitating against plans by the Ethiopia government to incorporate most parts of Oromia region under the administration of Addis Ababa, the capital city.

The violence was sparked off after the government placed the Welkait community under Tigray region, from the previous Amhara administration.

The clashes hit different parts of Oromia, Amhara and Addis Ababa in the towns of Bahir Dar, Sharwa, Nekemte and Meskel Square which is found in central Addis Ababa.

The deadliest clashes took place in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region on Sunday where about 49 protesters were killed in Nekemte.

At least 67 people and at least three police officers were killed after security forces used live bullets to disperse demonstrators, Amnesty International, a human rights body showed said in reports.

The international community voiced its concerns in the manner of government’s brutal response to the low level, disorganized and un-armed protesters, saying that the latest action would only worsen the crisis.

“The brutal response of the government risks provoking more anger and making it worse,” Sahara Reporters quoted an un-named diplomat.

The region is one of the nation’s nine ethnic based states and surrounds the capital. Oromo is the biggest ethnic group but has been marginalized by Amharas, the second largest who comprise the nation’s elite

The Oromia protests started in November 2015, after the government started expansion plans that would displace Oromo farmers and locals as authorities sought to acquire more land for development under Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan.

The Ethiopian government dropped the plans.

Since then, farmers and locals have joined students in the protests, raising economic, political and cultural grievances that are shared by many within the Oromo community.

On Friday, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn warned people not to join the protests, adding that the protesters are illegal and meant to destabilize the nation, one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

“These things don’t have owners and they are illegal. Therefore participating in illegal protests clashes with and goes against our constitution,” Voice of America quoted him.

The protests have drawn political battles between the government and opposition. In Bahir Dar, the opposition, Semayawi Party cancelled a planned rally after authorities declared it illegal.

The government blamed the protests on opposition, inside and outside the Eastern Africa nation.

Since late Friday, it shut down access to social media in what is seen as a move to contain the protesters who have used      Facebook to rally masses in a similar manner to the tactics used by protesters during the Arab Spring that hit Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.