Crackdown on Ethiopia Protests Left 97 People Dead, Amnesty Says

At least 97 people were killed and hundreds wounded when Ethiopian security forces opened fire on peaceful protests in the Horn of Africa nation over the weekend, Amnesty International said.

Thousands of people attended demonstrations in the Oromia and Amhara regions, urging political reform and the rule of law, the London-based rights group said in a statement. The worst violence was in the northern city of Bahir Dar, where at least 30 people died in a day, “which may amount to extrajudicial killings,” Amnesty said, citing “credible sources.” Gunfire in Gondar city claimed at least seven lives, while in the capital, Addis Ababa, police beat protesters gathered in the main square, it said.

Communications Minister Getachew Reda said on Aug. 6 there had been deaths and that the demonstrations were illegal as there was no one responsible for organizing them.

“Ethiopian forces have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

Protests that began in Ethiopia’s Oromia region in November have posed one of the biggest challenges to the nation’s ruling coalition since it came to power 25 years ago. The crackdown there has left more than 400 dead, Human Rights Watch said in June. The government says officers have been killed and property damaged during the demonstrations.