Ethiopians have kicked against the use of excessive force on protesters as Human Rights Watch declares 75 people killed during weeks of protests in the country resulting to soldiers and police firing on demonstrators.
According to the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, Leslie Lefkow, Government officials have acknowledge only five deaths and an undisclosed number of security forces also killed.
Protests by students began in Ginchi, a small town 80 kilometers southwest of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa when authorities sought to clear a forest for an investment project.
It later spread to the street of Oromia, home of Ethiopia’s estimated 27 million people, the country’s largest ethnic group.
Residents went on the streets to protest the government’s plan to allocate farmland near Ethiopia’s capital for a new investment as the country tries to evolve from an agrarian economy into a regional industrial powerhouse.
57. URBAN PLANNING: ETHIOPIA, THE OROMO, CITY EXPANSIONS, PROTEST: Ethiopians on Edge as Infrastructure Plan Angers https://t.co/O7rbnct57T— John M. Thomas, Jr. (@johnmthomasjr) December 17, 2015
Lefkow said the government’s response to the Oromia protests has resulted in scores dead and a rapidly rising risk of greater bloodshed.
Government spokesman Getachew Reda said the “peaceful demonstrations” that began last month had escalated into violence, accusing protesters of terrorising civilians.
However, Human Rights Watch has confirmed they had received credible reports that security forces shot dozens of protesters in Shewa and Wollega zones, west of Addis Ababa, in early December.
Numerous witnesses told Human Rights Watch that security forces beat and arrested protesters often directly from their homes at night.
The weeks of violence have been one of the worst following the disputed 2005 election in which almost 200 people died.