Ethiopia protest deaths


At least 78 people were killed in protests in Ethiopia against the treatment of a prominent activist, the prime minister’s spokeswoman said.

Billene Seyoum told a news conference 409 people were detained over the unrest, investigations were ongoing and the death toll and number detained could rise.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was greeted with boos by at least 700 protesters during a visit to Ambo, a site of earlier violence west of Addis Ababa, three people present told Reuters by phone.

As the prime minister entered a meeting with local politicians, supporters of activist Jawar Mohammed gathered outside chanting “Down Abiy” and “We stand with Jawar, Jawar is our hero,” people present said.

One said the chants were so strong the prime minister left the meeting ahead of time and was airlifted out of Ambo in a helicopter under tight security.

Once Abiy left calm returned, witnesses said adding no one was injured during the protests.

Supporters of Jawar took to the streets last week to protest his treatment after he said police surrounded his home in Addis Ababa and tried to withdraw his government security detail.

Crowds of young men from his Oromo ethnic group turned their anger against, Abiy, also an Oromo, saying he betrayed them by mistreating Jawar.

Jawar’s ability to organise street protests helped propel Abiy to power last year.

Billene said at least 78 civilians died in “a senseless act of violence” in the Oromiya and Harari regions and the eastern city Dire Dawa last week.

Since his appointment in 2018 Abiy implemented sweeping political reforms which won him international praise but lifted the lid on long-repressed tensions between the country’s many ethnic groups. He won the Nobel peace prize this month for making peace with Ethiopia’s long-time foe Eritrea.