Ethiopia has been locked in a fierce land grab struggle in the past few months. The Oromo and Amhara communities that make up almost 61% of the population have been protesting against a plan by the Ethiopian govt that would involve taking their land.
Human rights violations that arose from the government attempting to curb the dissidents are also a new point of protest for the people.
As a result of these protests, the death toll of the anti-government protesters in Ethiopia has been climbing steadily. The Ethiopian govt had stood its ground that the numbers being reported by rights groups like Human Rights Watch, opposition groups, and media houses were greatly exaggerated.
On Tuesday the Ethiopian govt finally changed their tune as they admitted that the death toll from police crackdowns and deadly stampedes could indeed exceed more than 500 people. The government’s admission came after it declared a six-month state of emergency in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, said that the death toll in Oromia region had been at least 170, while another 120 died in Amhara since the demonstrations began. Eventually admitting that “when you add it up it could be more than 500.” Both rights groups and opposition groups have insisted that more people died when security officers dispersed demonstrations.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made the comment while speaking at a press conference in Addis Ababa alongside the German chancellor Angela Merkel. The German chancellor showed support for the protesters and said that her country was already “working in Oromia to de-escalate the situation there by offering mediation between groups.”
Although the admission could be seen as a step forward for the Ethiopian govt, the Prime Minister still issued a stern warning to what he described as “violent extremist armed groups”. He said that the government would deal with them “in a proportionate manner.”
Another intrigue is also brewing in Ethiopia as the country’s information minister Getachew Reda earlier in the week blamed groups in Eritrea and Egypt for contributing to the unrest. Egypt’s foreign ministry has, however, denied any involvement in the country’s internal affairs.