Ethiopian students protest against police crackdowns

University students in Ethiopia launch protests over police crackdowns

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn

Ethiopia's capital was filled with university students on Tuesday demanding the end of police crackdowns in a protest sparked by the government’s decision to expand the capital into farmland last year.

The government wanted to develop farmland around the capital, Addis Ababa, and its plan triggered some of the worst civil unrest for a decade, with rights groups and US-based dissidents saying as many as 200 people may have been killed.

According to officials the number of people killed is lower but a specific number was not given.

Ethiopia has long been one of the world's poorest nations but has industrialised rapidly in the past decade and now boasts double-digit growth. However, reallocating land is a thorny issue for Ethiopians, many of whom are subsistence farmers.

Authorities gave up the land scheme in January. However, the protests continued while students from Addis Ababa University protested near the United States embassy holding signs that read "We are not terrorists. Stop killing Oromo people."

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said he will deal with the complaints in Oromiya, while accusing rebels of feeding the violence.

His opponents have blamed harsh police tactics for the unrest.

"The aim was to highlight the abuses carried out in the region," one student told Reuters, saying he did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals.

"We waved white cloth to indicate that we were peaceful protesters. But police started beating us up," he said.

US-based Human Rights Watch said last month that protesters it spoke to as well as those detained never appeared in front of a judge as a result of being subjected to beatings.

The group said women suffered sexual assaults and mistreatment. It said one 18-year-old student was "given electric shocks to his feet."

Officials dismissed the report as not worthy of comment.

TRTWorld, Reuters