Ethiopia declared a state of emergency over the weekend after anti-government protests flared following the death of dozens of protesters at a religious festival in Bishoftu city located in Oromia region. The protest initially started in November 2015 against government’s master plan to integrate the capital city Addis Ababa with neighbouring villages of the Oromia region. Farmers and Oromo activists often complain about poor compensation of displaced farmers and complained that the master plan was set to displace a number of Oromo farmers from their land. Peaceful protests turned violent after government’s heavy handed response and finally forced the government to give into the protesters’ demand and cancel the master plan.
Another round of protests started in Amhara region following identity questions of people in Wolqayt area bordering Amhara and Tigray regions. Similar to the previous incident, the government’s plan to arrest the representatives of the protesters and charge them with terrorism sparked a protest which engulfed the whole Amhara region.
The government finally admitted that the root cause of the protests is its inability to provide good governance and job opportunities. The government and the ruling party promised to conduct a wide-range reform to address the grievances of the public and tried to have discussions with different sectors of the society. But public discontent with the government was widely expressed on social media platforms which led to government blocking social media and internet access to the people. The protest gained international audience when marathon runner Lelisa Feyisa finished second at the Rio Olympics and showed protest symbol of crossing hands over the head.
The state of emergency followed after string of attacks on factories, lodges, government offices and vehicles that followed the deadly incident at Bishoftu. The national parliament is expected to approve the declaration in its session tomorrow since there is no opposition member in the 547 seat parliament.