Ethiopia protests block roads, shut businesses
ADDIS ABABA: Businesses were closed and stone-wielding men blocked roads near Ethiopia‘s capital on Tuesday in the latest anti-government protest by the Oromo people, the country’s largest ethnicity.
It is the second day of a three-day strike called by the Oromo people and follows a nationwide state of emergency last year after protests turned deadly.
“Without any mistakes or any wrongdoing, our people are being chained. In our own country, we are considered as second class citizens,” said Dina Abdela.
He and other young men had blocked one of the major roads heading northwest from the capital Addis Ababa.
On the city’s outskirts, businesses were shut and most cars stayed off the road, with a protester striking a vehicle carrying AFP journalists with a rock at a makeshift roadblock near the town of Burayu to the west of Addis Ababa.
No deaths were reported but a protester in Burayu told AFP that one man was injured during clashes when police tried to clear the demonstration.
Dina said the strike, which ends on Wednesday, spread by word of mouth and was intended to pressure the government to release prisoners, including opposition politician Bekele Gerba.
Ethiopia’s attorney general said on Monday the government would drop charges against Bekele, the deputy leader of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress who was arrested in late 2015.
But protesters said they didn’t trust the authorities to keep their word.
“It’s not only Bekele Gerba,” said protester Gemechu Tefa. “All of our people need to be released.”
There was no immediate reaction from the government.
Unrest first broke out among the Oromo people in late 2015 when the government proposed expanding the capital’s boundaries into their federal region, Oromia.
The protests later spread across the country, leading to hundreds of deaths, tens of thousands of arrests and the declaration of a 10-month state of emergency in October 2016.