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Addis Ababa master plan: Oromo protests will not cease despite ‘mounting’ death toll

By Ludovica Iaccino
January 12, 2016 15:30 GMT
Updated 6 hr ago 541

Oromo protesters will not cease their demonstrations against the Ethiopian’s government plan to expand its capital Addis Ababa despite the fact that more than 100 people have been killed, a member of the Oromo community in London told IBTimes UK.

Etan Habte, author and PhD candidate at London’s Soas University, said protests against the expansion are still ongoing in Ethiopia’s Oromia state and the number of demonstrators varies every day, according to the army presence in the state.

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“The protest has not been completely defeated, it is going on and is causing much trouble to the government,” he said, adding that the death toll stands now at 160 people. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 140 people have been killed so far.

“Protesters are using different strategies, shifting from west to east,” Habte continued. “The western part of Oromia is now overwhelmed by the national army and paramilitary forces, so protesters have now shifted towards the east.

“The number of protesters who take to the streets depends on the military presence. But then there also are those who stay at home, but they still protest against the plan.”

Habte alleged that violence carried out by security forces has increased and is targeting peaceful civilians including pregnant women and children, especially in the western part of Oromia.

Several rights groups have called on the government to cease violence and release dissidents and political opponents, including Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), arrested in December.

Habte alleged that thousands of OFC members and supporters have been imprisoned and called on the governement to initiate dialogue with opposition people and representatives of the Oromo community to resolve the issue peacefully.

Awol Kassim Allo, fellow in human rights at the London School of Economics, told IBTimes UK the government should also establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the deaths and cease to label protesters as terrorists.

“The Ethiopian government doesn’t engage in dialogue,” he said. “The government might have been forced to retreat on the master plan but with the number of casualties and the government’s massive campaign to slander the protesters, the narratives seems to have shifted to a more profound and directly political demands.

“I know that these calls have been made by several groups and individuals in the past and the government has repeatedly shown its contempt for these calls but these are nevertheless questions that will never go away and one that would one day turn out to be the most politically significant questions.”

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