Fresh protests in Ethiopia since dozens of protesters were killed in a stampede at a religious festival on 2 October underline the need for the Ethiopian government to ensure a full investigation into how the protest was handled, said Amnesty International today.
Protests have broken out in the capital Addis Ababa, as well as in the Oromia and Amhara regions, since the deadly stampede at a large-scale traditional ceremony in the town of Bishoftu on Sunday. Protest groups blame the tragedy on security agents firing live bullets and tear gas into the massive crowd assembled in a confined space, a charge the government has denied.
“We have documented multiple complaints of police using excessive force, including lethal force, against largely peaceful protesters since demonstrations began in the Oromia region in November last year,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
“The law enforcement agencies must immediately end all unlawful use of force against protesters. The government, meanwhile, has an obligation to ensure prompt, thorough, impartial, transparent and effective investigations, particularly into deaths during protests. This should include what role government forces played in Bishoftu, as well as how Ethiopian security forces manage public protests in general.”
It is critical that an investigation be held to unearth the truth and to identify law enforcement officers criminally responsible, and hold them to account in open and fair trials
The government has put the death toll from the stampede at 52, while protest groups say the number is much higher. They also say that some of their colleagues died of gunshot wounds inflicted by the security forces.
“Given the contradictory accounts, it is critical that an investigation be held to unearth the truth and to identify law enforcement officers criminally responsible, and hold them to account in open and fair trials,” said Michelle Kagari
“In the meantime, the authorities must exercise restraint to prevent further bloodshed.”
The Oromo protests began in opposition to the Addis Ababa Masterplan, which aimed to extend the administrative boundaries of the capital Addis Ababa into parts of Oromia, which many Oromo feared would lead to mass displacement of people from their homes. The masterplan was scrapped in January but the protests have continued.