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Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Ethiopia's Iron Heel
Scores have been killed in Ethiopia protest crackdown. Security forces are accused of shooting dead people in Oromia and Amhara regions in attempt to suppress wave of protests. Across Ethiopia's Oromia and Amhara regions at the weekend Amnesty International put the death toll at 97, with 67 killed in Oromia and 30 in Amhara, many of them extrajudicially, in the protests linked to an aborted government attempt to commandeer local land.
"Ethiopian forces have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices," Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said.
Police fired tear gas and blocked roads to several towns in the vast Oromia region as demonstrations erupted after a call from a spontaneous social media movement.
"We have reports of between 48 to 50 protesters killed in Oromia. This death toll might be higher because there were a lot of wounded," said Merera Gudina, leader of the opposition Oromo People's Congress.
A diplomat confirmed that 49 people were killed. Among the towns worst hit by the violence were Nekemte, a town in western Ethiopia where 15 people were killed, the diplomat said, while 27 died in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region. "They appear to be low level, quite disorganised protests scattered all around...," the diplomat told the AFP news agency. “The brutal response of the government risks provoking more anger and making it worse."
Oromia saw unrest for several months until early this year, sparked by plans to allocate farmland in the region surrounding the capital for development. Authorities scrapped the land scheme in January, but protests have flared again over the continued detention of opposition demonstrators.
The Oromo are Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, constituting more than 30 percent of the population of 100 million. The Amhara are the second-largest group.