Ethiopia has declared three days of national mourning after a stampede at a religious festival in Oromia, which started after police fired tear gas and warning shots, killed at least 50 people.
Protests in Oromia started in November last year when the government announced a plan to expand the capital – a city-state – into the surrounding Oromia region.
Many Oromos saw that as a plan to remove them from fertile land. The scheme has since been dropped, but the unrest spread as demonstrators called for the release of prisoners and for wider freedoms.
In the Amhara region, demonstrations began over the status of a district – Wolkait – that was once part of Amhara but was incorporated into the neighbouring Tigrayan region more than 20 years ago. Those demonstrations have also since widened.
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front is a multi-ethnic coalition made up of four parties. The opposition and political analysts, though, say it is dominated by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front.
The Government Communication Affairs Office said in a statement that flags across the country and at Ethiopian embassies and consular offices would be lowered to half-mast starting from Tuesday, the state news agency reported.
“The country declares the mourning following the death of people who lost their lives because of the violence instigated by anti-peace elements,” the government said.
Oromo opposition leaders say the stampede was sparked by police firing tear gas and shooting in the air to disperse people at the festival. Sections of the crowd had started to shout anti-government slogans and make anti-government gestures, according to media reports.
Witnesses said people were crushed, and others fell into ditches as they tried desperately to escape the police.
The Associated Press news agency reported clashes
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