Ethiopia: Analysis - Security Forces Open Fire On Protesting Crowd in Shewa Robit, Killing and Injuring Many

A map showing the location of the the town of Shewa Robit (red pin) in Ethiopia.

Addis Abeba — "There were an unknown number of deaths and casualties following a peaceful demonstration in Shewa Robit town of the Amhara region," residents told Addis Standard. There are still some detainees in police custody after security forced attempted to disperse crowed of protesters last week. Relative calm has returned to the city this week after a tense weekend.

Tades, who chose to go by his last name, told Addis Standard the town's high school students held a peaceful demonstration on Thursday, 28th June of 2022 denouncing the killings of ethnic Amharas in Wollega and demanding the government to dispose of its constitutional responsibilities to help law and order prevail in the country.

According to Tades, the next day, security forces and law enforcers went door-to-door and arrested students, political leaders [including the woreda's branch head of the opposition party, the National Movement of Amhara] and individuals whom they believed were involved in coordinating the demonstration. Following the arrests, he went on explaining, on the same day Friday, high school students and residents of the town went to the police stations where the detainees were held captives and demanded their release. "With the involvement of emotions, the situation escalated when the security forces and the public argued in a heated manner," adding," then the shooting started which claimed an unknown number of deaths and casualties," he said recalling the happenings at the scene.

Another witness, Sahle [name changed upon request] said: "There were deaths, casualties, and arrests, though I don't know how many in numbers," reinforcing Tades's words. For the subsequent three days, Shewa Robit town was consumed in unusual silence. Businesses were closed. Most of the residents stayed at their homes for fear of what would happen next, he added.

Deutsche Welle Amharic, in its part, reported quoting eye witnesses that up to 12 civilians were killed following disagreements between the security forces and the residents who were demanding the release of the detainees.

Addis Standard called the office of the mayor of the city for further explanation. "I cannot give you any details at this moment. The town is under the joint command post of the woreda and the city's administration," a representative from the office stated.

A statement released by the city's administration read that it was deeply saddened by the loss of lives and injuries caused by the conflict and said it was working with the woreda and 'other security forces' and elders to bring back the normalcy of the town. It further stated the command post passed an indefinite curfew against any transport vehicles, especially three wheeled bajaj vehicles and motorcycles to operate only from 6 am to 6 pm local time. It also stated that "No person shall carry any ammunition other than government security forces," adding," any business centers and service providers shall only operate from 6 am to 8 pm [local time]." It also prohibited any individual or group from movement between 8 pm to 6 am other than authorized security forces. Strictly forbidding any government employee to be outside the workplace during government working hours, the statement further demanded the employees and other service providers to render their services to the localities.

The command post warned that it would take legal and appropriate action against any individual or institution that does not comply with the curfew provisions.

It was recently reported that more than 200 Amharas were killed by armed groups on Saturday June 18 in Tole Kebele, Gimbi Woreda of West Wollega zone, in what many have described as 'the deadliest attack' in recent months.

Addis Standard's attempts to speak to the said command post for further comment was unsuccessful.

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