By Aishwarya Rai, International News Writer
On October 20, the Ethiopian government announced that over 1,500 people had been arrested due to protests that have been ongoing since August, according to the New York Times.
These conflicts in Ethiopia took a violent turn during the annual Ireechaa celebrations in Bishoftu turned into a stampede, leading to around 52 casualties.
Turmoil in Ethiopia started late last year when plans to expand the boundaries for the capital, Addis Ababa, were announced, which led to fear of displacement for many people of the Oromia area which surrounds the capital.
The plan was scrapped in January but protests still continue. Other reasons for protests span from dissent between the current ruling coalition and former re-bel group, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to other social issues including “farmers being displaced for commercial agriculture”, according to BBC News.
Federal security forces arrived at the Ireechaa celebrations due to, “anti-government chants,” ac-cording to the Washington Post. The demonstrations were followed by tear gas and gun shots, which led to a stampede and many people being killed due to the panic.
According to the Economist, the EPRDF’s opposition “blamed the fatalities on federal security forces that arrived to police anti-government demonstrations.” Accounts of the events and deaths involved are unclear, as officials claimed that around 52 were killed whereas other sources claim that the numbers range from 80 to 250. According to the Human Rights Watch, 90 were killed in August and according to The Washington Post, more than 500 people have been killed within the last year by Ethiopian security forces, a figure that Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said could be an accurate estimate.
The protests and violence involved pose a great threat to not only the people, but also the future of Ethiopia. Many foreign investment plans have been shattered, and the state of emergency declared on October 9 has set the tone for more vocalized dissent to follow.
According to BBC, five things that have been banned under the state of emergency include social media, broadcast media, protests, gestures, similar to those made famous by Olympic marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa at the Rio 2016 Olympics, and guns.
A curfew has been imposed and diplomats have restrictions on how far they may travel from the capital.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stated that the state of emergency was declared due to, “the loss of lives and property damages occurring in the country.” This is the first time the ruling party has declared a state of emergency since its rise to power 25 years ago.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 25th print edition.
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