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  • Ethiopian runner makes protest sign as he crosses line in Rio

    An Olympic marathon runner from Ethiopia staged a daring protest against his home government when he crossed the line in Rio on Sunday.

    As he took the silver medal, Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above - a gesture made by the Oromo people who have suffered brutal police crackdowns.

    Lilesa is from Oromia, home to most of Ethiopia's 35 million Oromo people.

    He repeated the protest gesture later at a press conference, saying his life would be in danger if he returned home.

    Human rights groups say that Ethiopian security forces have killed hundreds of people in recent weeks as they crack down on anti-government protests.

    Explaining his actions, Lilesa said: "The Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting and I support the protest as I am Oromo.

    "The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed. I raised my hands to support with the Oromo protest."

    The marathon runner said that he might be killed if he returned.

    "If not kill me, they will put me in prison," he said. "I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country."

    Asked if he was worried about being sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he said: "I cannot do anything about that. This was my feeling. I have a big problem in my country, it is very dangerous to make protest in my country."

    Rule 50 of the Olympic charter bans political displays or protests and the American duo of Tommie Smith and John Carlos were famously stripped of their medals after the pair flashed the black power salute on the medal stand at the 1968 Summer Games.

    There has been a wave of protests in Ethiopia in recent months over a series of frustrations, including attempts by the governments to reallocate land in the Oromo and Amhara regions. Read more 

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  • Ethiopia says UN observers not needed as protests rage

     

    Addis Ababa - Ethopia has dismissed a plea from the United Nations that it allow international observers to investigate the killing of protesters by security forces during a recent bout of anti-government demonstrations. 

    Getachew Reda, a government spokesman, told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the UN was entitled to its opinion but the government of Ethiopia was responsible for the safety of its own people.

    Reda's comments came after the UN urged the government to allow observers to investigate the killings of at least 90 protesters in the Oromia and Amhara regions over the weekend.

    Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said allegations of excessive use of force must should be investigated and that his office was in discussions with Ethiopian authorities.

    Reda, however, told Al Jazeera that it was not necessary to send observers to specific parts of the country since the UN already had a massive presence in Ethiopia.

    He said the government would launch its own investigation into whether security forces had used excessive force and would do so in consultation with local people.

    He blamed what he called "terrorist elements" for stoking the violence from abroad, without giving further detail.

    At the weekend, an opposition leader told the AFP news agency that up to 50 people were killed as security forces suppressed the protestsAmnesty International put the death toll at 97.

    Oromia, an area which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, has seen several months of protests, sparked by plans to allocate farmland in the region for development.

    Authorities scrapped the land scheme in January, but protests have flared again over the continued detention of opposition demonstrators.

    Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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  • Ethiopia must allow in observers after killings - UN rights boss

     

    GENEVA, Aug 10 (Reuters) - The U.N. human rights chief urged Ethiopia on Wednesday to allow international observers into restive regions where residents and opposition officials say 90 protesters were shot dead by security forces at the weekend.

    In his first comments on the incident, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that allegations of excessive use of force across the Oromiya and Amhara regions must be investigated and that his office was in discussions with Ethiopian authorities.

    Since January, when he said the killings of protesters first began, his office had "not seen seen any genuine attempt at investigation and accountability".

    "The use of live ammunition against protesters in Oromiya and Amhara, the towns there of course would be a very serious concern for us," Zeid told Reuters in an interview in Geneva.

    Unrest flared in Oromiya for several months until early this year over plans to allocate farmland surrounding the regional capital for development. Authorities in the Horn of Africa state scrapped the scheme in January, but protests flared again over the continued detention of opposition demonstrators.

    At the weekend, protesters chanted anti-government slogans and waved dissident flags. Some demanded the release of jailed opposition politicians. Information on the reported killings has been difficult to obtain, Zeid said.

    "So I do urge the government to allow access for international observers into the Amhara and Oromiya regions so that we can establish what has happened and that the security forces, if it is the case that they have been using excessive force, that they do not do so and promptly investigate of course these allegations."

    Zeid said that any detainee who had been peacefully protesting should be released promptly.

    The state-run Ethiopian News Agency said on Monday that "illegal protests" by "anti-peace forces" had been brought under control. It did not mention casualties.

    As in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which Zeid visited last month, it is vital that security forces employ non-lethal means during peaceful protests, he said.

    (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Mark Heinrich)

    Source:  Reuters

     

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  • 'Several killed' as Ethiopia police clash with protesters

     

    Several people are feared dead in clashes in north-western Ethiopia between police and anti-government protesters, amid a wave of unrest.

    On Friday police arrested dozens of demonstrators during massive rallies in the capital, Addis Ababa.

    Since last November the government has been facing protests from the two largest ethnic communities over alleged human rights abuses and other issues.

    Authorities have banned demonstrations and blocked social media.

    Despite the ban, people took to the streets in several parts of the country for a third consecutive day on Sunday, Emmanuel Igunza reports from Addis Ababa.

    The worst violence took place in the north-western city of Bahir Dar in the Amhara region - the homeland of the Amhara people.

    Police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse thousands of people who had blocked roads and chanted anti-government slogans.

    Unconfirmed reports say several people were killed. One resident told the BBC he had seen a friend being shot in the head by security forces.

    The Oromo protests and Ethiopian unity

    Overnight protests continued in the Oromia region, which surrounds Addis Ababa, with police arresting dozens of people.

    The unrest was sparked last November by a plan to expand the capital into Oromia. This led to fears farmers from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia, would be displaced.

    The plan was later dropped but protests continued, highlighting issues such as marginalisation and human rights.

    Oromo activists say police have killed hundreds and arrested thousands of people from their community in recent months.

    Source: BBC

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  • Government planning a meeting with oppositions amid protests and online calls for more protest rallies

    Online activists of the #OromoProtest, a persistent anti-government protest by Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, have called for massive protest rallies throughout the Oromia regional state, the largest among the nine regional states in Ethiopia. Accordingly, activists are calling on a region-wide protest on August 06 to continue the protest that first flared up on November 12, 2015 in Ginchi, a small town some 80 Kms South West of the Capital Addis Abeba.

    In a related news, reliable sources told Addis Standard that the government in Ethiopia is planning to call a meeting at the end of this month with opposition party representatives “both inside and outside the county” to be held at the African Union (AU) aimed at discussing the political impasse the country seems to be in. Titled “Peace Building and National Consensus”, the meeting is requested by the government and is expected to be facilitated by the AU, Addis standard learned. However our attempts to get official confirmation were to no avail.

    The call for more protest rallies by the #OromoProtest online activists follows another massive rally held in the last weekend in the Gonder city of the Amahara regional state in the north. The peaceful protests in Gonder, which attracted more than half a million participants, followed another protest held between July 12th and 14th in which more than a dozen people were killed.

    The protest related death in itself followed a raid by heavily armed federal security forces, including the Anti-Terrorism special force, targeting members of the Wolkayit community who have been protesting against the federal government’s decision to incorporate the area where the community lives into the Tigray regional state. The Wolkayit community members also reject the idea of them being ethnically considered as Tigrayan and want to identify themselves as Amhara.
    More than 400 Oromos were killed by security forces since then, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).  In Addition to the report by the HRW, activists are also documenting the death, injuries and forced disappearances of individuals from areas where protests are taking place. Hundreds of University students have also been dismissed from several state universities located in the region.

    Government dismisses the rally
    The online calls for more rallies were dismissed first by Muktar Kedir, President of the Oromia regional state. In astatement he gave to state controlled and affiliated media last night, the president insisted that the protests rallies were illegal because the regional government has received no prior notification from the organizers.

    In Addition, in a press statement he gave to government filtered media organization today, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalgn dismissed the legality of the planed protest rallies and said his government was ready to discuss public discontents with the people of Ethiopia. But he cautioned the people of the country not to be misled by social media calls protests and added the government will be forced to take mesasures against “illegal activities,” according to a report filed by state run Fana Broadcasting Corporation.

    However, in a letter of notice addressed to Abbaa Duulaa Gammadaa, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Muktar Kedir, President of the National Regional State of Oromia, Ibrahim Haji, Commissioner of Oromia Police and , all City Councils in charge of matters pertaining to Public Political meetings and Peaceful Demonstration, the online activists evoke Proclamation No 3/1991 that says “people who seek to stage public political meetings and peaceful demonstrations have a mere duty of notification.”

    Source: Addis Standard 

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