This Sunday the government declared a state of emergency in Ethiopia. The country has seen anti-government protests recently. The protests were marked by violence and the situation became dangerous. A week ago there was a deadly stampede during one of the protests. So the event caused the authorities to declare a state of emergency in the country.
Beginning this week, the state of emergency is going to last for six months, giving the government more power and more attributions. The government will use the increase in power to better deal with the situation and restore order.
The Deadly Events at the Irreecha Festival in Bishoftu
Hailemariam Desalegn defends the measure and says that instituting a state of emergency is necessary. The Prime Minister stressed that the government must to its job to protect private property and the lives of citizens. At a time like this, with protest and violence in the country, it is still the government that must restore order.
The deadly stampede that triggered the state of emergency took place last Sunday, October 2. That Sunday, there was a religious festival in Bishoftu, a town southeast of Addis Ababa. The annual celebration of Irreecha is a thanksgiving festival that many local people attend. Already gathered in a crowd, the people present at the festival took the opportunity to express their discontent with the government. They chanted slogans and used a gesture of protest.
Crossing your fists over your head has become a silent gesture of protest in Ethiopia. It is increasingly familiar to Ethiopians. People use it to protest oppression and manifest their demand for more rights for Oromia people. At Bishoftu, the people there started displaying this gesture of political protest. So the festival quickly turned into a demonstration. The massive crowd that the festival drew became engaged and voiced its grievances.
Security forces started to fire and used tear gas to disperse the crowd. That triggered a panic as people were trying to run for cover. In the stampede that ensued tens of people lost their lives. According to a government estimate, 55 people lost their lives. But the opposition contradicts those reports. They say that the death toll is actually much higher.
The Tense Situation in Ethiopia
There have been protests in Ethiopia during the past several months. Human rights groups that are closely monitoring the situation say that hundreds of people have died since the beginning. Also, tens of thousands have been arrested.
The Ethiopian government is feeling the pressure from the protests. The Oromo and the Amhara communities that together make up the majority in Ethiopia are asking for more rights. They no longer want to be marginalized in Ethiopian society. They are asking for more political representation. Also, they are asking for more economic power as well as land rights.
International human rights groups are not happy with the answers that the Ethiopian government provided. They are asking for an independent investigation into what happened during the stampede last week.
The declaration of a state of emergency could impact Ethiopia’s economy. Especially foreign-owned investments in the country.
Image source: here.