Ethiopia blames Egypt and Eritrea over unrest

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Police fire tear gas to disperse protesters during Irreecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2Image source, Reuters
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Ethiopia's security forces have been accused of using excessive force to quell unrest

Ethiopia's information minister says groups in Eritrea and Egypt are contributing to the unrest, which has led to a six-month state of emergency.

Getachew Reda said the foreign elements are arming and financing opposition groups, but not necessarily with the formal backing of their governments.

Under the state of emergency troops will be deployed to quell protests.

It follows months of anti-government demonstrations by members of the country's two largest ethnic groups.

Violence has intensified since the beginning of the month when at least 55 people were killed during a protests at an Oromo religious festival.

The state of emergency, which was announced on Sunday, will last for six months.

Mr Getachew told journalists in the Ethiopian, capital, Addis Ababa, that "all kinds of elements in the Egyptian political establishment" are involved but they were "not necessarily directly linked with the Egyptian government", the AP news agency quotes him as saying.

The minister also pointed the finger at Eritrea, with which Ethiopia has a long-standing border dispute.

There has also been a long-running row with Egypt over Ethiopia's decision to build a dam on the Nile, one of the river's sources of which flows from Ethiopia to Egypt.

Mr Getachew earlier told the BBC that the state of emergency could involve banning protests.

"For the sake of maintaining public order the government believes that [the] temporary suspension of certain expression rights is warranted," he explained.

"Armed violence that has been perpetrated by those organised gangs has been targeting civilians, has been targeting government installations, critical infrastructure.

"We have ample evidence that it is orchestrated by people who are in the business of not [just] dismantling the Ethiopian government but also dismantling the Ethiopian state in its entirety," he said.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Vehicles were torched in Sebeta, the Oromia region in protests last week
Image source, AFP
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Crossing hands across the head has become a symbol of Oromo anti-government protest

Mr Getachew also promised that the Ethiopian authorities would investigate claims that "off-grid" police officers had killed civilians.

BBC World Service Africa editor Mary Harper says the violent protests are the most serious threat to Ethiopian stability in a quarter of a century.

The protests in recent months have been over a series of frustrations including attempts by the governments to reallocate land in the Oromo region.

Rights groups say that more than 500 people have died following clashes between police and protesters.

Activists among the Oromo and Amhara communities complain that they are being politically excluded.

The Oromo and the Amhara make up about 60% of the population. They complain power is held by a small Tigrayan elite.

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