Two Ethiopian senior opposition members have been arrested over suspicion of provoking protests against the government's plan to establish a new economic zone near the capital for displaced farmers, their party leader said on Friday.
The Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) announced since the demonstrations erupted in the Oromiya region in December, 87 protesters have been killed by police officers.
On Dec. 15, a government spokesman said that police prepared a list of five people who had been killed during the protests and death toll could increase.
However, authorities have not declared an updated number.
OFC chairman Merara Gudina stated that security forces arrested his deputy Bekele Gerba and the party's assistant secretary Dejene Tafa on Thursday, and both remained in custody.
"They suspect that our party and some of our members are part of the protest movement, that we have been inciting the demonstrations," he told Reuters,
"We do not know when Bekele and Dejene will be released or be charged for anything."
He also rejected claims of provoking demonstrations.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addressed the parliament on Friday and said that the "anti-peace forces" had triggered violence with false information on "Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan."
He also stated that members of "terrorist groups" had provoked protesters and that the government would take the decisive measures against them.
After Desalegn was re-elected as prime minister in October, he had promised to open up the country’s political system to allow more space for opposition parties.
Although the country suffered a famine in 1984, the country has experienced huge economic growth. Following Ethiopia's economic growth and infrastructure investments, the country currently holds one of the strongest economies in Africa and is a magnet for foreign investment.