Ethiopia – September 2016 Update


-Since November 2015, Ethiopia’s Oromia region has witnessed an unprecedented wave of popular mobilisation. Mass protests swept across Oromia’s main towns and villages, reflecting widespread discontent with a large-scale development strategy promoted by the Ethiopian government .

-Violent state repression in Oromia have killed more than 400 people over the past ten months, while thousands have been arrested in connection to the protests

-In Oromia, opposition to a government-imposed developmental plan, which would usurp the land of many farmers, revealed the growing discontent over authoritarian rule and widespread corruption among local and national elites. On the other hand, the protests in Amhara pointed to the unresolved Wolkayt issue and to Ethiopia’s perceived unfair ethnic-based federal system, which has reportedly marginalised Amhara people – the country’s second largest ethnic group.

-As protests in the two restive regions unfolded during the summer, embryonic forms of coordination have started to emerge within the opposition camp. Demonstrators have employed common non-violent tactics, including head shaving in solidarity with jailed opposition leaders in the attempt of fending off state repression.

-Two main exiled groups backing the protests, the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) and Ginbot 7, have recently formed an alliance to coordinate their efforts domestically and abroad.Although there remain doubts over the prospects of this alliance, the two groups have organised public demonstrations worldwide in order to attract the international attention on the protests in Oromia and Amhara.

-Despite growing international concerns for the deteriorating human rights situation the Ethiopian government has dismissed the criticisms, blaming “outside enemies” for being responsible for the current turmoil and vowing to investigate allegations about indiscriminate use of force by the security forces.

-The ruling EPRDF is unable to find a durable solution to Ethiopia’s current crisis. The authoritarian configuration of its political system make significant liberalisation an unlikely prospect, although the recent unrest revealed the widespread dissatisfaction among large sections of the population with centralised development initiatives and insufficient political reforms.