Africa

Ethiopia 'detains 1,600' under state of emergency

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The most recent protests were sparked by the deaths of at least 55 people at a religious festival

The Ethiopian authorities have detained more than 1,600 people under the state of emergency, a government minister has told the BBC.

A statement, quoted by state-affiliated FBC website, lists arrests in the Oromia and Amhara regions, which have recently seen massive demonstrations.

This is in addition to Monday's arrests of 1,000 people near the capital.

A six-month state of emergency has been declared in the face of a wave of unprecedented anti-government protests.

Under the emergency measures, people can be detained without an arrest warrant for the duration of the state of emergency.

FBC reports that a total of 1,683 people have been arrested in at least five places, including in Shashamene, 250km (155 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa, where 450 people have been detained.

It describes most of those arrested as "suspects in the recent violence" and adds that a large number of looted weapons had also been handed over.

Some business people have been detained for closing their shops, as have three teachers for "abandoning school".

There is no mention where the people are being held.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The current unrest is the biggest to hit Ethiopia in more than two decades
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption There have been months of deadly clashes in Ethiopia

Rights groups say that at least 500 people have died during the anti-government protests over the last 11 months as a result of clashes with security forces.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said last week that could be an accurate estimate, but blamed "anti-peace forces" for the trouble.

Activists have targeted commercial property, including some foreign-owned businesses.

These include warehouses and factories in the town of Sebeta, near Addis Ababa, which were set alight during recent protests, the authorities say.

On Monday, the mayor of the town told FBC that 1,000 people had been arrested in connection with those attacks. He later told the AP news agency that some of those had been released.


Arrest breakdown:

  • 670: West Arsi zone, Oromia
  • 450: Shashamane, Oromia
  • 302: West Guji zone, Oromia
  • 110 "key actors and co-ordinators of the violence": Kelem Wolega zone, Oromia
  • 93: Gondar zone, Amhara
  • 13 businesspersons for closing their shops, 13 for calling for a strike and three teachers for "abandoning school": Gondar zone
  • 29 businesspersons for closing their shops: Bahir Dar, Amhara

Source: FBC

Seven things you can no longer do in Ethiopia


The recent wave of demonstrations began in Oromia last November with people there protesting against a plan to expand Addis Ababa into their region.

That plan has since been dropped, but the protests have continued.

There have also been demonstrations in the country's Amhara region.

The state of emergency was declared on 9 October a week after at least 55 people died in a stampede during an Oromo religious festival which turned into a protest.

Activists blamed the security forces for causing the panic, but the government said protesters in the crowd were responsible.

Human rights groups have in the past criticised Ethiopia for suppressing dissent.

In last year's general election, every seat was won by either a member of the governing EPRDF coalition or one of the party's allies.

The government has recently proposed reforms to the electoral system so that opposition politicians have a better chance of being elected.

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