Ethiopian authorities have banned peaceful protests against ethnically motivated killings which were due to take place on 28 October, in direct violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said today.
The National Amhara Movement (NAMA), an opposition political party, had called for protests following the killing of scores of people from the Amhara ethnic minority in recent months. Officials of NAMA were on 27 October prevented by the police from accessing their party office in Addis Ababa, and from traveling to the various locations where the protests were to take place in the Amhara regional state.
The spokesperson of the Amhara Regional government, Gizachew Muluneh, on 26 October described the protests as “illegal and unnecessary” and warned that regional security forces would be deployed and that there was a possibility of violence if the protests went ahead.
There has been a surge of deadly ethnic violence targeting Amharas in various parts of the country, including in Benishangul, Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regional states.
“The killings are abhorrent and serve as a clarion call to the Ethiopian authorities to safeguard the right to life. People have a right to protest and call for justice for the lives lost. The authorities must ensure security forces are deployed to facilitate and manage the protests whenever they may occur, not to disperse or otherwise inhibit protesters,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
According to the Ethiopian government, at least 45 people were in September, killed by groups of armed youths targeting Amharas in Benishangul. In October there were 31 more killings in the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) in such attacks.
“The authorities must not only thoroughly, effectively and impartially investigate all the killings and hold those responsible to account, but also put in place measures to ensure protests take place peacefully,” said Deprose Muchena.
In Oromia, at least 160 people were killed in June, including dozens of members of ethnic and religious minority groups, according to the Federal Police, following the violence that erupted after the killing of popular Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa. Although some of the protests were peaceful, others turned violent as organized youth attacked members of ethnic and religious minorities.
And since August, Ethiopian security forces have used excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters calling for the release of detained opposition leaders Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, killing at least 20 people in Oromia’s West Hararghe and Bale Zones.
“People have a right to protest to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. They should not be killed, injured or arrested simply for expressing their views but instead, they should be able to count on the protection of the authorities in exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” said Deprose Muchena.