Ethiopia – State of Emergency Lifted

The government halts security provisions but the ethnic tensions continue to bring violence.

The government has announced a relaxation of its state of emergency, lifting restrictions on the media and restoring some personal freedoms, Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa said on March 15th. Fegessa said the monitoring of media content and arbitrary searches would now cease.

Similar curfew restrictions that had been in place on industrial sites, which were targeted in arson attacks, have also been lifted. The state of emergency was declared on October 8th 2016 after a breakdown of law and order in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The crisis was catalysed by a stampede during the Irrecha festival outside the capital, during which witnesses claimed that police fired at the crowd.

The state of emergency had been intended to restore military style rule, but many armed incursions have continued along the borders into eastern and southern Oromoia, which borders the Somali regional state.

In east Hararghe, some 630km east of the capital Addis Ababa, militiamen conduct cross border raids in various localities. The border incursions have also hit West Hararghe, particularly Bordede woreda where more than 30 people were killed on February 22nd.

In south east of Ethiopia, some 450 km from the capital, similar incidents have occurred in Bale zone in Swena, Meda Wolabu and Dawe Serer woredas. As well as in Liben and Gumii Edelo woredas in Guji Zone of the Oromia regional state.

Many of those conducting raids are thought to be members of the Liyu Police, a paramilitary force set up by the Somali regional state in 2007 to counter the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ogaden region, in the east of the country.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa said, over the past six months hundreds of Liyu police have entered Oromia villages and attacked, killed and looted, with the number of dead at around 200.

Oromo Woman – CC 2013

The boundary line between Oromia and Somali regional state is contested, and a border referendum was held in 2004 to determine resident’s choices. According to official results residents in close to 80% of disputed areas have voted to be under the Oromia regional state.

However Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2012 accused the special police of executing 10 men, being implicated in many other abuses against civilians under the context of counterinsurgency operations.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has accused some local leaders of inciting the ethnic clashes.

(Addis Standard 3/3; © AFP 3/1 2017; BBC Monitoring 9/3)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ETHIOPIA: South-East Tension
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21330A–21331A

ETHIOPIA: OFC Leader Detained [Free to Access]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21255A–21255B,

ETHIOPIA: State of Emergency
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21167A–21170C

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