US, Canada issue travel warning
Not long after the 10-month state of emergency (SoE) was lifted by the House of People’s Representatives (HPR), stay home strike and isolated incidents of unrest has flared up in several parts of Oromia this week, resulting in business boycotting, road blockage and attacks on vehicles that refused to cease operation.
Addisu Arega, head of communications with the regional government, confirmed to The Reporter that several vehicles have been damaged by the unrest in various localities of the regional state.
According to Addisu, the protest covered 29 woredas in six zones of the Oromia Regional State. He further noted that, in addition to the youth, businesspeople have joined the protest, and an undisclosed number of people have been detained.
The protest first began on Tuesday in some parts of Oromia, and has since spread, affecting places such as West Hararghe, West Shoa and zones in West Arsi, among others.
The zonal administration of East Hararghe in Oromia also confirmed the protest that flared up has since been contained, “and business is going on as usual”.
The latest protest has become the second open protest against the government since last year’s, which claimed 669 lives and injured over 1,200 protesters and security officers in the two largest regions, Oromia and Amhara before prompting the government to issue a SoE decree. After the SoE expired earlier last month, the first protest was called in Bahr Dar two weeks ago in the form of a stay home strike, but it was short-lived as government forces intervened to arrest more than 150 business persons who decided to close their shops and businesses.
The latest protest is said to have been incited by the Oromo diaspora who called a five-day strike and business boycott.
It is to be recalled that the previous deadly protest was said to have been caused by mal-administration, unemployment as well as the introduction of a controversial integrated master plan that had proposed integrating the capital with the surrounding Finfine Special Zone of Oromia (which was scrapped later).
But now, the recently conducted income assessment and tax estimation as well as demands for the release of political prisoners (including renowned politicians Merara Gudina (PhD), his Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) co-chair Bekele Gerba, who are defending various charges, along with other politicians and activists from the region) are presented as the main reasons for the latest protest. Another pressing issue raised by the protesters is failure by the regional government to resolve border disputes.
Opposition groups, on their part, link the latest protest to the government’s failure to address public demand despite the ending of the SoE.
Meanwhile, Yeshewas Assefa, the president of Blue Party, who The Reporter approached, said that “the protests were indeed predicted and attest to the fact that the government has not yet addressed public grievances first aired before the SoE”,
Citing the case of the Youth Revolving Fund, he further said, “EPRDF is trying to address some of the questions; yet the public demanded something entirely different”.
One of the highlights of the latest protest is the disruption of khat transportation from Awoday to Harar, as witnessed by The Reporter. Similarly, business activities have been totally shut down in Awoday, including, banks, public offices as well as other institutions. Transport was also halted until late afternoon Friday. Similarly, no transport service was available from Dire Dawa to Harar and Addis Ababa. The Reporter also observed that three vehicles belonging to Haromaya University have been damaged.
In the western part of the country, business has been at a standstill in Ambo and Ginchi since Tuesday and transit services have been halted from Addis Ababa to Nekemt and beyond in Oromia.
In a related development, the Canadian government did not take long to issue a security alert for Ethiopia, citing clashes in parts of the country. It also subsequently advised its citizens to exercise caution.
The US is the latest country to issue a travel advisory, updating an earlier notice that its citizens refrain from travelling to Harar.