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Ethiopia declares state of emergency to stop anti-government protests

Il primo ministro dell’Etiopia Hailemariam Desalegn ha annunciato l’instaurazione dello stato d’emergenza, dopo mesi di violente proteste.

Ethiopia’s government has declared a 6-month state of emergency. The decision has been announced by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on 9 October and represents an attempt to contain escalating anti-government protests across the country.

Protests stem from ethnic contrasts

Oromo people, who make up at least one third of the country’s population, are leading the protests. Demonstrations have mainly taken place in the capital Addis Abeba and in some cases have given life to acts of violence, with foreign companies being burnt, public buildings being sacked and barricades being built in some districts.

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn ©ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images

Protests have peaked in late 2015, as Oromo people keep feeling marginalised by Tigray ethnic group, a minority group governing the country. What has triggered revolt was the project of expanding the capital’s urban area, which would represent a threat to Oromos’ ancestral lands.

Ethiopian government’s brutal repression

Protests have been going on for months, so Desalegn decided to declare a state of emergency – for the first time in 25 years in Ethiopia. The government has blocked access to internet (especially to social networks) in order to prevent new protests from being organised. However repression has become more violent. Police forces have even shot at the crowd, exacerbating the yet tense situation. Hundreds of rebels have already been killed and 52 people died in October alone in violent clashes during an Oromo festival, according to official data provided by the government.

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Military forces during a demonstration of Oromo people, Ethiopia ©ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images

“They are not giving any space for dialogue,” said Beyene Petros, chairman of the Medrek opposition coalition. “They want total control on everything. People will not sit and accept this. It will provoke more anger and it might well be the last straw”.

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