5 August 2017

Ethiopia Lifts State of Emergency Imposed in October

Photo: allafrica.com
Oromo protesters (file photo).

Ethiopia's government has lifted a state of emergency imposed in October after hundreds of people were killed in anti-government protests demanding wider political freedoms.

Politicians voted to end the measure on Friday, with officials saying the country has fewer security issues.

Last year's protests saw some of the East African nation's worst violence since the ruling party came to power in 1991.

A deadly stampede at a religious celebration at the beginning of October saw more than 50 people killed as police confronted protesters.

Emergency law, which was extended in March, restricted a number of rights and led to the arrests of more than 21,000 people. It also hurt one of Africa's fastest-growing economies.

"We have been able to deal with armed terrorists, anti-peace elements and troublemakers," Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa said, adding that the government was now able to deal with "a few" remaining security threats.

In total, more than 600 people were killed in nearly a year of protests that began in the Oromia region and spread into the Amhara region and the capital, Addis Ababa.

Demands included an end arbitrary arrests and respect for regional autonomy.

Fegessa said more than 8,000 people are still behind bars and are being prosecuted for crimes they are accused of committing during the unrest.

Rights groups have claimed that many people were beaten and subjected to arbitrary detentions under the emergency law.

The government has maintained that those arrested by mistake or who unwillingly took part in demonstrations were released.

Restrictions under the state of emergency included arbitrary arrests without court orders; limits on radio, television and theatre; and dawn-to-dusk prohibitions on unauthorised movements around infrastructure facilities and factories.

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