ADDIS ABABA (AA) – Ethiopian officials, who are struggling to quell weeks of unrest in some parts of the country, have vowed to take decisive measures against “anti-peace elements”.
However, opposition parties accuse the government of using excessive force and mismanaging a land and housing crisis.
A blueprint plan that aims to integrate towns administered by Oromia Regional State to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa has sparked a violent protest that spread to at least 40 locations.
Ethiopia is a federation of nine ethnically-based regional states and protestors fear displacement and land grabbing.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said in his first statement since the crisis that the government is taking decisive measures against what he termed “anti-peace forces”.
The plan is a draft document tabled for public discussion which could be amended or even discarded if rejected by the public, he said on Wednesday evening.
“Destructive forces are masterminding the violence from the front and behind,” he claimed.
According to the government, protestors destroyed public institutions, buses and private farms.
Government blamed for violence
Meanwhile, Tilahun Endeshaw – vice chairman of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek) – one of the country’s oldest opposition parties, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the cause of the unrest is “the failure of the ruling party to implement the rights of regional states and the people”.
The rezoning plan, according to Endeshaw, deprives farmers of their land and integrates it into the capital.
“So the blame knocks at the door of the government,” he said.
“Thus far 32 people have lost their lives while more than 100 have been wounded and hundreds arrested,” the Medrek leader added.
However, Worku Chala, deputy communication head of Oromia Region, told Anadolu Agency that so far “at least five students have died”.
Dr. Chane Kebede, president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party, said that “the death toll could be much higher as protests were taking place in northern Ethiopia, Gondar, bordering Sudan”.
“The violence occurred between Amhara Regional State and an ethnic group known as Kimant, which claims more administrative territory.”
“Ethnic elites exacerbated the violence,” Dr. Chane claimed, blaming the government of failing to find a peaceful resolution.
Amhara Regional State said today that it had the situation under control.
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