Ethiopia’s populous regions were hit by protests on Saturday, amid social media blackout and government warnings. At least fifteen lives were lost.
Ethiopia’s largest region Oromia was hit by at least a dozen simultaneous protests on Saturday morning.
Activists have been calling for a region-wide rally, dubbed grand #OromoProtests, for today through facebook. The call for demonstration came a day after the massive rally in Gondar city, Amhara region, last Sunday, which went on peacefully, despite government’s warning against it.
OromoProtest activists demanded the government should let similar protests in Oromia. Hundreds have died in the months long protests in Oromia.
The activists called for protests in all districts and zonal capitals of the region as well as in Addis Ababa for Saturday.
HornAffairs was able to confirm demonstrations took place in two dozen locations West Arsi, East Hararghe, West Shewa, in South West Shewa, West Welega and East Welga zones.
Hundreds staged tried to stage a demonstration in Addis Ababa. Police dispersed the protesters and detained some.
The protests turned deadly in some areas.
HornAffairs learned five civilians were killed in Nekempte, Welega, and three in Shashemene, W. Arsi.
According to one source, there are multiple places of unrest in W. Arsi zone.
NGO staff evacuated yesterday their offices in Hirna and Chiro in W. Hararghe and Bedeno and Grawa in E. Hararghe, according to HornAffairs sources. They said there was “cultural dancing and festivity” denouncing the government in those areas which led the NGOs wary of an imprending unrest.
In Amhara region, the city Gondar which had a peaceful demonstration last Sunday was hit by riot on Friday and Saturday.
A group of youth returning from a court hearing of a suspect detained three weeks ago. It is to be recalled the detention of the suspect and his colleagues, who are mostly members of the Wolqait committee, led to unrest in July when five civilians and eleven security officers died.
The riot on Friday led to a clash with the regional special force that cost two lives and destruction of property. Unlike the unrest three weeks ago, armed men from nearby rural Woredas were blocked from entering the city by military forces in outskirts of the city.
The riot continued today in a section of the city called Arada. Several civilians died as the regional special police forcefully dispersed the crowd.
According to local people, a new anti-riot unit was deployed yesterday with different rules of engagement – with instructions to take “strong action.” Federal police is stationed in several locations but does seem to have been actively engaged.
According to one source, there are tensions and clashes with security forces in semi-rural areas of north Gondar zone.
HornAffairs received reports of incidents in multiple areas of North Gondar and South Gondar zones, namely, Chauhit, Koladeba, Chelega, Azezo and Gaint.
Inspired by last Sunday’s demonstration, activists had called for demonstrations in several areas of Amhara region for Saturday including Debre Tabor.
Thousands held demonstrations in Debre Tabor around noon. The protest later turned into a deadly clash with security forces. The details are not clear yet.
Activists have called a demonstration in the regional capital Bahir dar for Sunday.
Amhara region president Gedu Andargachew appeared on tv for the first time in three weeks yesterday to warn against planned demonstrations. He denounced last Sunday’s demonstration citing the presence of armed men and anti-constitutional slogans. Activists claim carrying arms is a local culture and deterrent of unduly use of force by the police.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Oromia President Muktar Kedir gave similar statements of warning that the planned protests were “unlawful demonstrations” citing that there have not been formal notification to the government.
It is to be noted, however, the government rarely allows protests rallies.
Social media has been shut down in most parts of the country since Friday evening.
Please note that this is a developing story amidst patchy telecom and internet connection. We will provide details, updates, and clarifications as we get confirmations.