Are Ethiopian protests a game changer?

by Selam

Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha in Ethiopia - 5 October 2016Image copyright
Reuters


Political protests which have swept through Ethiopia are a major threat to the country’s secretive government, writes former BBC Ethiopia correspondent Elizabeth Blunt.

For the past five years Ethiopia has been hit by waves of protest, not only by formal opposition groups but also Muslims unhappy at the imposition of government-approved leaders, farmers displaced to make way for commercial agriculture, Amhara communities opposed at their inclusion in Tigre rather than the Amhara region and, above all, by groups in various parts of the vast Oromia region.

In the most recent unrest in Oromia, at least 55 people died when security forces intervened over the weekend during the annual Ireecha celebrations – a traditional Oromo seasonal festival.

The Oromo protests have continued long after plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa’s boundaries to take in more of the region were abandoned earlier this year. And in the last few months groups which were previously separate have made common cause.



In particular, Amhara and Oromo opposition has coalesced, with both adopting the latest opposition symbol – arms raised and wrists crossed as if handcuffed together.

The picture of Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa making this gesture while crossing the finish line at the Rio 2016 went round the world, and

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