U.S. Says Concerned Over Ethiopia Stifling Oromo Dissent

  • Ethiopia detained Oromo oppositon leader Bekele Gerba Dec. 24
  • Release of leaders needed to help resolve political grievances

The U.S. is concerned by the sustained stifling of dissent by its ally Ethiopia, including the detention last month of ethnic Oromo opposition politicians during recent fatal protests, the State Department said. 

Demonstrations against a government masterplan to integrate the development of the capital, Addis Ababa, with surrounding areas in Oromia region began in mid-November and continued this week in the town of Ambo.

“These arrests have a chilling effect on much-needed public consultations to resolve legitimate political grievances in Oromia,” according to the Jan. 14 statement. “We call for the release of those imprisoned for exercising their rights, such as political party leaders and journalists.”

Bekele Gerba, deputy leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress, the main opposition party, was arrested on Dec. 24 with other senior party officials. 

As many as 140 “generally peaceful” protesters were killed by security forces during the wave of protests across Oromia, according to Human Rights Watch. The government says a dozen security forces and a significant number of civilians died. The government shelved the masterplan on Jan. 14 after the Oromo wing of the ruling coalition withdrew its support.

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