Ethiopia Alleges Oromo Protesters Receiving Support From Egypt

  • Egypt says has ‘absolute respect’ for Ethiopia’s sovereignty
  • Eastern African nation has declared state of emergency

Ethiopia’s government suspects Egyptian elements may be backing Oromo protesters as rivalry over control of the Nile River intensifies, Communications Minister Getachew Reda said.

Authorities in Cairo may be supporting the banned Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, that organized a spate of attacks last week across Ethiopia’s most populous region, which led to the declaration of a state of emergency on Sunday, he told reporters Monday in the capital, Addis Ababa.

“We have ample evidence that trainings have happened, financing has happened in Egypt, the jury is still out whether the Egyptian government is going to claim responsibility for that,” Getachew said. “Nor are we saying it is directly linked with the Egyptian government, but we know for a fact the terrorist group OLF has been receiving all kind of support from Egypt.”

Egypt’s government has claimed Ethiopia’s construction of a hydropower dam on the main tributary of the Nile contravenes colonial-era treaties that grant it the right to the bulk of the river’s water. Ethiopian officials reject the accords as obsolete and unjust.

Egypt had “absolute respect for Ethiopia’s sovereignty,” the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said in an e-mailed statement Monday. The two nations were holding “high-level communications,” he said while urging “vigilance against any attempts to harm the brotherly relations between Egypt and Ethiopia on the government and popular levels.”

Ongoing Unrest

Farms, factories and government buildings were torched in Oromia last week, as anti-government violence worsened in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous region and a key U.S. security ally.

The state of emergency doesn’t mean military rule, although a streamlined security-force “command post” chaired by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has the authority to suspend due process and enact curfews when necessary, Getachew said. “We are facing a threat that is not going to be easily addressed through ordinary law-enforcement measures.”

The OLF was part of an allied insurgency that took power in Addis Ababa in 1991 by overthrowing the country’s military regime. The group that campaigned for autonomy for the Oromo ethnic group ended up in conflict with other former rebels in a transitional government and returned to insurgency. It has not admitted involvement in the ongoing unrest.

Oromo protests began in November amid claims of the unfair expropriation of farms, state repression and the economic and political marginalization of the community. Over 700 people have since been killed by security forces in Oromia and in Amhara, Ethiopia’s second-most populous region, according to the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia.

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