Ethiopian unrest killed 669 people – report


A total of 669 people were killed in unrest that gripped Ethiopia for months before authorities imposed a state of emergency last October, according to an investigation report presented to parliament.

The Horn of Africa country declared six months of emergency rule after more than a year of violent protests in its Oromiya, Amhara and SNNP regions. Demonstrators in the three areas say government trampled on their political rights.

Ethiopia faced criticism from abroad as well as at home over its authoritarian approach to economic development, though government has also presided over stellar growth rates.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission – a body mandated by parliament to investigate the violence – presented its findings on Tuesday and acknowledged security forces had taken disproportionate measures in some areas.

The report said 462 protesters and 33 security personnel were killed in the unrest that engulfed 91 towns in the Oromiya region alone. Protesters opposed having their land incorporated into the boundaries of Addis Ababa.

Commission head Addisu Gebregziabher told parliament security forces had been “negligent” when firing teargas at protesters during a religious festival, triggering a stampede that killed scores.

In the Amhara region, 110 demonstrators and 30 security officials were killed in clashes sparked by the arrest of activists campaigning over disputed territory, the report said.

Tensions there have simmered for around 25 years over the status of Wolkayt district, which protesters say was illegally incorporated into neighbouring Tigray to the north.

That dispute is particularly sensitive because it runs counter to a division of Ethiopia along ethnic and linguistic lines, imposed by the core of the current ruling EPRDF coalition when it came to power in 1991.

The report said another 34 people died in the SNNP region south of Addis Ababa.

In October Ethiopia accused “elements” in neighbouring Eritrea, Egypt and elsewhere of being behind the disturbances. It has since extended the nationwide state of emergency by four months.