Date: Thursday, 12 October 2017
The United States (U.S.) on Wednesday issued a security alert for its citizens in Ethiopia citing violent protests and road closures south of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.
“The U.S. Embassy is aware of reports of violent protests and road closures in and around Shashamane, approximately 250 km south of Addis Ababa.
“There are reports of casualties. The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens avoid travel to Shashamane at this time,” the embassy’s statement read.
Local media portal, the Addis Standard reported that the said clashes had led to deaths and injuries. They quoted an official of the Oromia state government who confirmed eight deaths and injuries to 30 others during a wave of anti-government protests in parts of the region on Wednesday.
It is unclear who the protesters clashed with because reports by Amharic service of German broadcaster, DW, indicated that the protesters, Oromia state government and security officials, young people and city dwellers all took part in the protests.
Protesters called for the release of prominent political leaders including Oromo Federalist Congress’ Merera Gudina and Bekele Gerba. They also called for the release of persons currently held by the regime for political reasons.
Oromia state – specifically the city of Ambo, 125km west of Addis Ababa – was the epicenter of spreading anti-government protests that started in 2015 through most of 2016.
The protests spread to northern Amhara State and even Addis Ababa before the parliament imposed a six-month state of emergency to quell the protests. The measure eventually lasted 10-months after it was extended upon initial expiry in April. It was only lifted in August 2017.
At the heart of the protests, the rejection of a government plan to extend the capital Addis Ababa into the Oromia region and issues of political marginalization. The protests were usually met with security crackdown that led to deaths and mass detentions.