‘Everyone Is Panicking,’ Looking More Like War In Ethiopia As Protests Expand

Written by Dana Sanchez


New violence, anger and attacks this week against businesses and tourism in Ethiopia raise questions about how much control the Ethiopian government has over broadening protests.

A former Ethiopian Air Force lieutenant called for the formation of a union army to overthrow the government in a Geeska Africa opinion piece.

Fresh protests broke out Monday in Ethiopia’s Oromia region after 55 people died Sunday in a stampede at the Irrecha festivival.

The U.S. State Department confirmed Thursday that a U.S. researcher died Tuesday when her car was attacked in Addis Ababa by demonstrators throwing rocks, Reuters reported.

Sharon Gray, a 31-year-old postdoctoral scientist at the University of California, Davis, was riding through Addis Ababa with her co-researcher Siobahn Brady when their car was attacked by demonstrators hurling rocks.

Brady was not hurt. The two women were the lead researchers on study to understand the response of plants to climate change with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. They were in Addis Ababa for a meeting.

Sunday’s stampede began when police fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse anti-government demonstrators south of the capital. Demonstrators say the government seized land to build factories and housing.

The Ethiopian government calls the protesters “anti-peace forces,” and says they’ve attacked and damaged 11 factories and dozens of vehicles, the Associated Press reported in the Washington Post.

The protests are expanding and turning increasingly to broader issues of political freedom.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry this week urged Israelis to avoid visiting Ethiopia’s Oromia and Amhara regions, Jerusalem Online reported.

“It’s really like a war movie,” an Israeli in Ethiopia told Channel 2 Online. “Everyone is panicking and no one knows what is going to happen. The rumors are that they want to overthrow the government. The atmosphere is unpleasant.”

Protesters set fire Thursday to Bishangari Lodge on the shores of Lake Langano, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of the capital, Addis Fortune reported.

Bishangari is one of Ethiopia’s finest eco-lodges, according to Journeys By Design. It provides jobs for local residents from surrounding villages and promotes community based conservation to conserve the local forests.

The lodge offers some the best accommodation outside Addis Ababa in locally crafted bungalows set beneath forest canopy overlooking the lake.

On Wednesday, the regional government said it will take all the necessary steps to uphold peace, security, and rule of law in the area.

Some businesses have been targeted because of suspected government links, according to Associated Press. Textile, plastic and bottled-water companies have been targeted.

More than 40,000 workers have been affected by the attacks on factories on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

Yosef Girma, a resident of Adama city in Oromia said there is no transportation in and out of town and many shops are closed. He said he has heard gunshots.  “It feels like a war zone,” he said.

Abraham Dinku, a former Ethiopian Air Force lieutenant, called for the formation of a union army to overthrow the government in an opinion piece in Geeska Africa.

“In my opinion the people’s uprising needs a military back-up,” Dinku said. Here are some excerpts from his opinion piece:

Ethiopia is in a dangerous situation at the present time. The absence of a democratic governance, a divided society, the monopoly of political power by a single minority group and unproportional wealth distribution for 25 years, created a discontent among the Ethiopian people and people started to (rise up) in every corner of the country.

Oromo, Amhara and other Ethiopian warriors defended (Ethiopia) from foreign adversaries for millennia. But at this moment the oldest nation is at the crossroad and at the verge of destabilization, due to the minority Tigrayans that assume state power for the last 25 years. This ethnic group, since it assumed state power, marginalized the rest of ethnic groups especially the major groups the Oromos and the Amharas that constitute 40 percent and 30 percent of the total population. That means 6 percent of the minority Tigrayans ruling the 70 percent and 24 percent of the Ethiopian population by iron fist … imposing apartheid-type rule against the rest of Ethiopian people. Now the minority group controls the economy, the military, the security apparatus.

The U.S., ally of the current despotic corrupt Tigre group, doesn’t care about the people of Ethiopia as long as its interest (is secure). This is a new type of colonizing, without the direct involvement of its military boots. Hence, our country for the last 25 years until now, by any measure is not a sovereign state.

There are so many political parties in (Ethiopia) now-a-days. Politics and military matters should be separated in the future democratic Ethiopia. We have to think ahead. We don’t know where the people’s uprising is heading. We have to draw a lesson from Libya and Syria’s upheavals. Bands of armed groups which are popping in different places and regions can jeopardize the uprising if they are not organized into one central command. That’s why the union army is needed now.