Amnesty International claims that about 100 people were reportedly killed in, apparently, bloody protests in Ethiopia as demonstrators clashed with security forces in different parts of the country.
The human rights group stated that the most deadly incident occurred in Bahir Dar, where at least 30 people died on Sunday. The authorities have said that seven died in Bahir Dar, and that security forces were reacting to violence from protesters. There has been an unprecedented wave of protests in Ethiopia in recent months. People in the Oromo and Amhara regions have been complaining about political and economic marginalisation.
Amnesty says that 67 people died when “security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters” in different towns and cities in the Oromo region over the weekend. There were clashes between security forces and protesters on Sunday in Bahir Dar, the Amhara regional capital. Opposition activists have given similar figures for the number of people killed.
The government has blamed “nearby and distant foreign enemies and social media activists” for defying warnings about holding unauthorized protests, the government-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC) reports. The authorities have said that the demonstrators were destroying government and private property, as well as “inflicting deaths on innocent citizens” and arrests were made as people were trying to spread the violence, FBC adds. The United States, a close ally of the government, said it was “deeply concerned” by the violence and said the people’s rights to demonstrate should be respected.
The unrest was sparked last November by a plan to expand the capital into Oromia. This led to fears that farmers from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia, would be displaced. The plan was later dropped but, protests continued, highlighting issues, such as marginalization and human rights. New York-based Human Rights Watch says that more than 400 people have been killed in clashes with the security forces since protests began. The government has disputed this figure. The Amharas are Ethiopia’s second biggest ethnic group and used to form the country’s elite.
Ethiopia’s government normally keeps a tight grip on the country but has been unable to prevent a wave of protests in recent months. There has not been anything on this scale in the last 25 years. These protests began in the Oromia region last November but, have now sprung up in the Amhara region – the homelands of the country’s two biggest ethnic groups. Activists say dozens of people were killed in Oromia, as security forces clashed with the demonstrators, along with seven in Amhara, although the deaths in Oromia have not been confirmed. In response to the protests, the government shut down the internet for two days.
There has not been a specific trigger, instead, what we are seeing is an accumulation of years of frustration from ethnic groups who say they have been marginalized by the government. Protesters in the Amhara region – from the Welkait community – first took to the streets of the city of Gondar in July over a land issue.