On August 6 and 7, Ethiopian security forces were reported to have shot dead about 90 demonstrators in the Oromia region, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, and in the Amhara region to the northwest.
In July, the demonstrations had spread to Amhara from Oromia, to which they had largely been confined.
They began there as a protest against the government’s integrated master plan to develop the infrastructure of Addis Ababa and adjacent cities in Oromia.
The government backed off that plan, but the demonstrations then became a wider protest, expressing grievances against the government and its response to the protests.
The Amhara demonstrations were apparently sparked by an attempt by authorities to arrest some individuals thought to have links to the Eritrean government and other dissident elements it supports. But this quickly turned into another protest by people agitating for the return of Amhara land that was transferred to the northern Tigray province in 1991.
Human rights advocates and observers estimate that at least 500 people have been killed since November last year, mostly by live ammunition fired by security forces, and that tens of thousands have been detained — and some tortured.
The government contests this figure and says that the protests were not peaceful; police officers were also killed and government and private properties were attacked.
Since elections last year, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition holds all the seats in federal and regional parliaments, making legislative criticism unlikely. The independence of the courts regarding politically sensitive cases has been questioned, journalists are arrested and nongovernmental organisations are restricted.
Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission has a specific mandate to investigate alleged abuse by security forces but its independence and credibility, too, were questioned when it reported to Parliament in June that the lethal force used by security forces in Oromia was proportionate to
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