An Ethiopian High Court has formally charged two individuals with inciting violence during an annual festival in October 2016. The events after that led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the country.
According to the charge sheet, the first defendant, Tufa Melka stoked violence after snatching a microphone from an elderly person who was addressing the crowd, while the second defendant, Kedir Bedasso, is said to have sparked violence using his phone.
The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported that the case has been adjourned to June 1, 2017.
The Irrecha thanksgiving festival of the Oromia people in central Ethiopia was disrupted in October last year after police fired teargas to disperse protesters in the town of Bishoftu. A six-month state of emergency was declared three days after the incident.
The government extended the state of emergency in April for a further three months despite the return to relative calm. The authorities also downgraded most of the restrictions imposed in October 2016.
A government report said 55 people died during the ensuing stampede mostly having drowned, an account which disputed claims by rights groups that undue force by the security forces was to account for the deaths – they further claim the deaths were higher that the government’s toll.
The Oromia region lies south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and is the center of the Oromia protests which hit the country late 2015 into much of 2016. Human Rights Watch reported that over 400 protesters were killed.