Amhara protesters teargassed


Police teargassed protesters outside a court in Ethiopia’s northern city Bahir Dar, a local party official and an eyewitness said, reflecting public tension over high profile violence that left dozens dead there in June.

The man, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, told Reuters protesters were chanting demands that government reveal “the truth” over the killings described as a regional coup attempt.

The June violence flared up after a rogue state militia leader killed the region’s state president and other top level officials, sparking a shootout in Bahir Dar, the Amhara capital.

Desalegn Chane, president of the new National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) party, confirmed police fired tear gas at protesters.

“Youth protested, police fired tear gas and dispersed them,” he told Reuters, adding there were no casualties.

The regional spokesman declined to comment. The region’s top police official did not respond to a request for comment.

Amhara is a northern region in Ethiopia and is home to the country’s second largest ethnic group.

The June violence was the most serious challenge yet to the rule of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose political and economic reforms in what was once one of Africa’s most repressive nations have emboldened powerful regional strongmen, leading to a surge in ethnically-fuelled clashes.

Tuesday’s protest appears to be a show of strength by Amhara’s increasingly strident ethnically-based political movement, which may challenge the Amhara-based party in the ruling coalition in next year’s elections.

“They were chanting and saying government should reveal the whole truth about June 22,” the man said. Protesters demanded the release of prisoners due to appear in court over the violence, he said.

It was not clear how many prisoners were due to appear in court or what the charges were.

State-run Amhara Mass Media said those due to appear included Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, former head of Special Forces in Amhara and noted prisoners have been held for 64 days without charge.

The witness said he didn’t see police arresting or beating protesters, a common occurrence under Abiy’s predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn.

Three years of protests culminated in Hailemariam’s resignation in April a year ago, ushering in Abiy’s rule and the gradual loosening of the state’s iron grip.