Amnesty International today called on the Ethiopian authorities to thoroughly and effectively investigate the violent dispersal of demonstrators by police in Addis Ababa in which five people were shot dead. Today’s deaths follow a weekend of ethnic clashes in which more than 58 people were killed.
The demonstrators had taken to the streets of the Ethiopian capital to protest government inaction over ethnically motivated clashes that also wounded and displaced dozens of people. It was the latest incident in a spate of ethnic unrest that has killed hundreds of people and forced 1.5 million more to flee their homes in the past year.
The ethnic violence followed the return of exiled leaders of the once outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which had fought for self-determination of the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. Their return was marked by a mass rally of supporters, some of whom violently attacked non-Oromo groups, in particular the Guraghe and Gamo living in Burayu District, in the special Oromia zone encircling Addis Ababa, resulting in death and forced displacement of non-Oromo communities.
Amnesty observed that social media was awash with hate speech against non-Oromo groups in the three days preceding the rally. However, the security forces did nothing to stop the incitement to violence, or to protect targeted communities despite their repeated pleas for help.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty’s Director for East Africa, said:
“There is no excuse for the use of lethal force against people who are peacefully protesting. The authorities must leave no stone unturned to identify and bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for these senseless deaths. The first step is to order an investigation into the conduct of the police force.
“The authorities must explain why they failed to respond to people’s distress calls and then shot dead peaceful protesters.
“No one should die because of their ethnicity and neither should anyone die because they took a stand against the shocking violence and killings that the authorities failed to prevent.”