Ethiopia ‘Releases 2,000 Detainees’ Held Under State of Emergency

The state of emergency is meant to crack down on anti-government rhetoric.

BY CONOR GAFFEY ON 10/31/16

Human Rights Watch Report On Violence In Ethiopa

(News Week) — Ethiopia has released around 2,000 people detained for partaking in recent anti-government protests, according to the country’s defense minister.

The Ethiopian government imposed a six-month nationwide state of emergencyon October 9 after months of protests by members of the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara. Civilians are restricted from contacting so-called “outside forces” on social media and from organizing demonstrations at schools or universities, among other prohibitions.

Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa said Sunday that the detainees—who were suspected of taking part in violent demonstrations—had been freed after receiving education and counseling, Ethiopia’s state-run Fana Broadcasting Corporation reported. Fegessa declined to confirm the total number of people arrested, but also said that 1,500 illegal weapons had been seized.

Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa said Sunday that the detainees—who were suspected of taking part in violent demonstrations—had been freed after receiving education and counseling, Ethiopia’s state-run Fana Broadcasting Corporation reported. Fegessa declined to confirm the total number of people arrested, but also said that 1,500 illegal weapons had been seized.

Security forces had arrested around 2,600 people as of October 20 under the state of emergency, the BBC reported.

The government imposed the state of emergency after deadly clashes between protesters and security forces. It came shortly after the Irreecha religious festival in Bishoftu in the Oromia region on October 2. More than 50 people were killed in a stampede at the festival, which protesters blamed on security forces using tear gas and firing rubber bullets.

Since the protests began in November 2015, at least 500 people have been killed. The demonstrations were sparked by government plans to expand the territory of the capital, Addis Ababa. The plans have since been dropped. The Ethiopian government has blamed outside forces—including Eritrea and Egypt—for sponsoring the violence. Both countries have denied the allegations.

Critics have said that the state of emergency has legalized the government’s crackdown on opposition. In a legal analysis published Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the broad restrictions contained under the state of emergency—which include banning people from watching diaspora television stations—violated international law.

A woman cries as she attends a prayer ceremony for protesters who died during Ireecha, the thanksgiving festival for the Oromo people, at Biftu Bole Lutheran Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,, October 9. Hundreds of people have died in anti-government protests in Ethiopia in recent months. TIKSA NEGERI/REUTERS

A woman cries as she attends a prayer ceremony for protesters who died during Ireecha, the thanksgiving festival for the Oromo people, at Biftu Bole Lutheran Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,, October 9. Hundreds of people have died in anti-government protests in Ethiopia in recent months.
TIKSA NEGERI/REUTERS

“Ethiopia’s state of emergency bans nearly all speech that the government disagrees with anywhere in the country for at least six months,” said Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at HRW. “The state of emergency hands the army new sweeping powers to crack down on demonstrators, further limiting the space for peaceful dissent.”

Ethiopia has been ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) since the early 1990s, when it toppled the Communist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The EPRDF is dominated by members of the Tigray ethnic minority and is seen as biased against other ethnic groups, including the Oromo and Amhara. The ruling coalition also controls 100 percent of the country’s parliamentary seats, leading to a lack of credible opposition.

During a recent visit to Ethiopia by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn promised to revamp the country’s political system.

2 Responses to Ethiopia ‘Releases 2,000 Detainees’ Held Under State of Emergency

  1. Sorsa October 31, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Well, they killed at least 20,000 of our people in two weeks and say they released 2,000.

    With this sacrifice the gallant Qeerroo taught Tigre bandits a lesson of their life, namely, TPLF can neither develop nor rule Ethiopia peacefully by ignoring the Oromo people!

    Because of the arrogance of Tigre fascists to listen to the people their so-called “double digit economic development” for two decades was turned to ash in only five days, never to be seen again in another one to two decades!

    Let TPLF continue to ignore the demands of the people again, and Finfinnee will be the next to be turned to ash, and it won’t take five days!!!

    That is when wayanes are sure to pack and leave our land and people alone!

    The peoples demands are very long, but most importantly:

    1) Immediately and unconditionally release ALL political prisoners, starting with Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa. We are aware that at least 200,000 of our nationals are being tortured in your detention centers!

    2) Immediately destroy ALL so called condos and illegal settlements around Finfinnee which you built on stolen land by evicting indigenous people. Fail to do this one and we won’t fail to do it for you!

    3) Immediately resign and call fresh election under international supervision.
    You crossed all red lines and there is nothing good you can do after this for the country, except its further destruction. Nobody is going to listen to you even if you promise to flood the country with gold.

    4) Immadiately pay compensation for all victims of human rights violation, illegal eviction, deportation, detention, torture and murder.

    5) Immediately allow international independent investigation into the killing of protestors and bring all criminals involved in human rights violation (those who tortured and killed civilians and those who ordered the killing of protesters to justice.

  2. Mario October 31, 2016 at 8:19 pm #

    The terrorist regime, woyanes/TPLF must release ALL prisoners without any precondition.Not a fraction of them out of several thousands. They are innocent until proven guilty by the Ethiopians people.

    The face-less, charisma-less and so-called defense minister, Siraj Fegessa has become these days the mouth-piece of woyanes/TPLF in a futile attempt to reverse the peoples revolution to dismantle and remove the terrorist regime once and for all. He is one piece of junk who has not taken any lesson from the dummy prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn. “Birds of the same feather, flock together” or “Gim legim abreh azgim”, as they say.

    These two dummies will never learn they are being used as tools by the enemy in power until they expire politically or biologically. Sad, but true.

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