Ethiopia has started releasing 9,800 detainees who were held under the country’s state of emergency over the past two months, a government spokesman said Wednesday.
A total of about 12,500 people were held since the state of emergency was declared on October 7 following months of anti-government riots in the Oromo and Amhara regions.
The government announced Saturday that it would release 9,800 of the detainees, while the rest would be charged with instigating violence.
“The state of emergency has brought about a tremendous change in the peace and security of the country. We have now returned to the status quo that we had before the violence,” government spokesman Zadig Abraha said.
“In response to this, we have now begun to release those that were apprehended for their alleged participation in the destruction … They have been given lots of trainings that were meant to give them lessons so that they won’t be part of the destructive trend that we have seen in the past,” he added.
The detainees started being released amid growing concern for their health.
Ethiopia has seen anti-government protests since November 2015, mainly in the Oromia region, which includes the capital, Addis Ababa, and where the Oromo ethnic group feels excluded from political and economic power.
Human rights activists say security forces have killed hundreds of people in Oromia, where dozens of factories and public properties were also damaged in recent months.
In Amhara in the north, protests focused on federal boundaries drawn two decades ago. According to local critics, the boundaries cut off many ethnic Amharas from the region. The protests later turned to calls for wider political freedoms and even for a change in government.