The Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency following a week of anti-government violence that resulted in deaths and property damage across the country, especially in the restive Oromia region.
Rights groups say that since last year more than 500 people have been killed in protests in the Oromia region surrounding the capital Addis Ababa.
Anger about a development scheme for the capital turned into broader anti-government demonstrations over politics and human rights abuses as the government promotes Ethiopia as one of Africa’s top-performing economies.
The government says the death toll is inflated.
In a televised address on Sunday, Ethiopia’s prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the state of emergency was declared because there has been “enormous” damage to property.
“We put our citizens’ safety first. Besides, we want to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, education institutions, health centers, administration and justice buildings,” said Desalegn on the state Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.
“The recent developments in Ethiopia have put the integrity of the nation at risk,” he said.
“The state of emergency will not breach basic human rights enshrined under the Ethiopian constitution and won’t also affect diplomatic rights listed under the Vienna Convention,” said Desalegn.
The internet is blocked across many parts of Ethiopia, residents reported on Sunday. The government has blocked the internet for more than a week to prevent protesters from using social media to get supporters to attend demonstrations.
Major towns and cities across Ethiopia’s Oromia region are experiencing unrest and widespread violent protests of people demanding wider freedoms. More than 50 people were killed on October 2 in a stampede triggered when police fired teargas and bullets to disperse protestors at the annual Irrecha thanksgiving celebration in Bishoftu town.An American woman was killed last week when she was hit by a rock thrown by protesters. Some businesses have been targeted because of suspected links to the government.
The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate said the attacks on factories in Sebeta town on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, affected more than 40,000 workers. Textile, plastic, cement and bottled-water factories have been targeted.
Anti-government protests continued on Sunday. Many roads into and out of the capital, Addis Ababa, are blocked by protesters and those who try to drive through are targeted by people who jump out from behind bushes and hurl rocks, witnesses told the Associated Press by phone on Sunday.
The state broadcaster said details of the state of emergency will be communicated to the public later Sunday.
“There are sufficient grounds to declare a state of emergency in Ethiopia,” said Abiy Chelkeba, assistant professor of law at Mekelle University. “The situation in many areas across the Oromia region has become so severe that law enforcement agencies themselves have become targets and were attacked with a high intensity. Moreover, the constitutional order of the country has been endangered. All in all, the value systems of the constitution like a respect for the national flag and adherence to the governance system are in danger.”
In a separate development, Ethiopian officials summoned Egypt’s ambassador to the country, Aboubakr Hefny, for discussions. An Ethiopian foreign affairs minister talked to the Egyptian diplomat after a video appeared online which purportedly shows members of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front sharing a stage with what Ethiopia’s state broadcaster described as Egyptians.