A US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) report says that Ethiopian security forces have claimed the lives of more than 400 Oromo Protesters.
The humanitarian group has backed up their claims with the list of about 300 Oromo protesters who have lost their lives. However, the government admits that some demonstrators died but insists that the human rights group was exaggerating the numbers.
The bone of contention was the intended expansion of the city capital by the government into the Oromia region. The inhabitants refuted the proposition with the fear that farmers in the region will bear the brunt.
Oromia region is an ethnically based region in Ethiopia. The region covers about 284,538 square kilometers. This makes it the largest region in the country.
As at 2007, the Oromo tribe was Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, taking up about 25 million out of the nation’s 74 million population. The regional capital until 16 years ago was Addis Ababa. Amidst controversies, it was moved to Adama region.
The initiative to expand the city capital into the area came up late last year in November. This sparked off the protests in the region. In January the Ethiopian government halted the plans of expanding Addis Ababa’s administrative boundaries.
Suspending the plan did not convincingly appeal to the Oromo tribe. Hence they continued with their protests and demonstrations.
Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission says that the clash between the Oromo protesters and the security forces resulted to 173 deaths. It says that 28 of them were security officers and local government officials.
Ethiopia’s Information Minister Getachew Reda says the security agents largely behaved “in a very professional and responsible manner”. Oromo protesters on the other hand demand justice for the police officers who used unnecessary force on them.
3 months ago, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn tendered an apology for the deaths and destroyed properties in the region. The Oromos regardless, still fume over their kinsmen who have been detained and yet to be charged.
The HRW gathered from witnesses that the detained Oromo protesters faced untold torture in confinement. The women are claimed to have been sexually assaulted.