Ethiopia: High Time for Genuine Reform Before Next Unrest Erupts

It's high time for the government in Ethiopia to move from PR to real and genuine reforms regarding Human Rights concerns in order to save the country from permanent political crisis. (Photo: via Amnesty.org)

Amnesty International

After a year of protests, time to address grave human rights concerns

Nearly one year on from the start of a wave of protests that has left at least 800 people dead at the hands of security forces, the Ethiopian government must take concrete steps to address grave human rights concerns in the country, Amnesty International said today.

The protests began in the central Oromia region on 12 November 2015, in opposition to the Addis Ababa Masterplan, a government plan to extend the capital Addis Ababa’s administrative control into parts of the Oromia.

“A year after these deadly protests began, tensions in Ethiopia remain high and the human rights situation dire, with mass arrests internet shutdowns and sporadic clashes between the security forces and local communities, especially in the north of the country,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“It’s high time the Ethiopian authorities stopped paying lip service to reform and instead took concrete steps to embrace it, including by releasing the myriad political prisoners it is holding merely for expressing their opinions. They should also repeal the repressive laws that imprisoned them in the first place, including the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation that has also contributed to the unrest.”

Even after the Addis Ababa Masterplan was scrapped in January 2016, protests continued with demonstrators demanding an end to human rights violations, ethnic marginalization and the continued detention of Oromo leaders.

The protests later expanded into the Amhara region with demands for an end to arbitrary arrests and ethnic marginalization. They were triggered by attempts by the security forces to arrest Colonel Demeka Zewdu, one of the leaders of the Wolqait Identity and Self-Determination Committee, on alleged terrorism offences. Wolqait, an administrative district in the Tigray region, has been campaigning for reintegration into the Amhara region, to which it belonged until 1991.

Just as in Oromia, security forces responded with excessive and lethal force in their efforts to quell the protests. Amnesty International estimates that at least 800 people have been killed since the protests began, most of them in the two regions.

The Ethiopian government’s heavy-handed response to largely peaceful protests started a vicious cycle of protests and totally avoidable bloodshed. If it does not address the protesters’ grievances, we are concerned that it is only a matter of time before another round of unrest erupt.

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