Africa

Dozens killed in anti-Abiy protests, ethnic violence in Ethiopia

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Some 67 people were killed in Ethiopia's Oromia state this week as protests against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed morphed into ethnic clashes, police said Friday.

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"The total number dead in Oromia is 67," said Kefyalew Tefera, the regional police chief. "There are about 55 of them killed by the conflict between them, between the civilians and the rest are killed by the security forces."

Five of the dead were police officers, he added.

On Thursday, authorities and hospital officials had reported that protests in the capital and other cities resulted in 16 deaths and dozens of wounded. It was not immediately clear how many of the 16 were included in the tally of 67 reported in Oromiya.

The violence underscored the dilemma facing Abiy, who must retain support in Ethiopias ethnically based, federal system but not be seen to favour one group.

But kingmakers like prominent activist and media mogul Jawar Mohammed are flexing their muscles. Like Abiy, Jawar comes from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopias largest. His supporters have stopped believing in Abiys promises of reform, he said in an interview with Reuters Friday, accusing Abiy of centralising power, silencing dissent and jailing political prisoners – like his predecessors.

Amnesty International says that, since Abiy took office, there have been several waves of mass arrests of people in Oromiya perceived to be opposed to the government. Detainees were not charged or taken to court, Amnestys Ethiopia researcher Fisseha Tekle said.

“The majority of people believe the transition is off track and we are backsliding towards an authoritarian system,” Jawar said at his heavily guarded home-office in Ethiopias capital, Addis Ababa. “The ruling party and its ideology will be challenged seriously not only in the election but also prior to the elections.”

The prime ministers spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment. Abiy has not commented on this weeks violence.

On Friday afternoon, the defence ministry said the army had been deployed to seven cities where there had been protests this week. The forces have been deployed “to calm the situation in collaboration with elders and regional security officers”, Major General Mohammed Tessema told a press conference in Addis Ababa.

Strident parties

The four ethnically based parties in the coalition that has ruled Ethiopia since 1991 are facing increasing competition from new, more strident parties demanding greater power and resources for their own regions.

“For a prime minister whose popular legitimacy relies on his openness, recent protests in Oromiya could be politically suicidal,” said Mehari Taddele Maru, an Addis Ababa-based political analyst. “It signals a significant loss of a populist power base that propelled him to power.”

If next years elections are fair – as Abiy has promised they will be – they will test whether the young prime minister can hold together his fractious nation of 100 million people and continue to open up its state-owned economy, or whether decades of state repression have driven EthioRead More – Source