Amid panic among residents of the capital city, Addis Ababa, following the renewed protest in the surrounding towns of the Oromia Special Zone, the city’s Police Commission said yesterday that it has tightened its security around city to contain the spreading Oromo protest from entering the city.
The protest started to spread across towns in the Oromia Special Zone, following the deadly Irrecha stampede that claimed the lives of at least 53 people and injured hundreds more.
The tragic incident came after a heated protest at the annual Irrecha festival interrupted and after the region’s Special Forces have decided to use tear gas to disperse the protest.
The firing of tear gas resulted in the public rushing off to safety causing heightened commotion and stampede around the scared grounds of Lake Hora, where Irrecha is celebrated every year.
The statement issued by the government blamed the tragic stampede on groups who instigated chaos in the crowd deliberately resulting in the deaths of many innocent civilians.
Meanwhile, activists accuse the government of firing more than tear gas and go to the extent of claiming that the accident was caused by the coordinated ground and air attack employing “helicopters and live rounds” on protestors resulting in people falling in the lake, ditches and/or caught in middle if a deadly stampede.
Following the funeral ceremony of many of the victims, widespread protest and unrest broke out around Sebeta, Furi and Burayou and other districts surrounding Addis Ababa.
As a result, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Addis Ababa was noticeably quite with shops closed and transportation shortages observed around Mexico, Tor Hailoch, Ayer Tena and Jemo Condo site, as well as in the neighborhoods of Ashewa Meda, Asko and nearby places around Kolfe-Keranyo Sub City.
However, the City’s Police Commission Commissioner, Girma Kassa told The Reporter that “the residents (of Addis Ababa) has been caught by fear of unrest yet there is no credible incidents that affect its security”.
He also urged the public to run its daily life without safety concern for he said police is in its regular duty insuring residents’ safety.
On Friday, the commission’s communications head, Fasika Asfaw (Com.) told The Reporter that in order to alleviate the security concerns of the city the police is now using all of its forces in one shift focusing its maximum capacity to alleviate the security concerns.
According to Fasika, in the past few days police detained unstated number of suspects who were suspected of inciting protest mostly around Merkato and cross-country Bus Station area. Among them, one was caught while waving ONLF’s flag, she said.
On the other hand, the protest in Bishoftu, Alemgena and Sebeta has seen multi-millions birr worth of investment going up in flames.
According to information obtained from private investors and Sebeta’s town administration, during the past five days around eleven factories, manufacturing facilities and over 60 vehicles have been burnt down.
On Tuesday, five big trucks which were said to be owned by private agents were burnt in Alemgena while they were parked in front of Meta Abo Beer factories waiting to load beer products. Similarly, near the factory, another truck which belongs to Midroc Derba Cement factory was burnt down by protesters while another truck was also said to be set ablaze around Burayou town.
Similar wave of protest in Wonji town has damaged private properties worth 23 million birr. According to owners of the company, some of the machines damaged by the protestors were new, which were imported from abroad two weeks ago and have not been even utilized for operation yet.
There have also been reports of looting around the protest-hit areas.
Furthermore, some 20 vehicles of the same company were fully and partially damaged by the protestors.
Similarly, properties worth millions of birr have also been reported to be damaged in Dugda District and Meqi town, 123km, south of Addis Ababa, where several farms and other kinds of investment facilities are located.
In West Arsi Zone, several investment facilities have also been damaged. Among them were top tourist destinations such as the famous Bishangari Lodge which was fully destroyed during the week.
According to reports, over seven public offices and several vehicles have been attacked amid the protest.
Despite the tragic incidents at the Irrecha celebration, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn praised security officers for their handling of the protest. However, the PM’s remark on state media has stirred a bit of controversy given damages sustained during the irrecha festival.
A day after the Irrecha’s fatal incidents, the Oromia regional state announced that protests has resumed in more than 30 places across the region. It further disclosed that there were also attempts by protester to free prisoners in some areas. It indicated, however, that the region’s security forces have repelled the protests and foiled their attempts.
In a related development, an American young scientist identified as Sharon Gray has also been killed in the protest in what was described to be a stone thrown by protesters. However, police is yet to confirm the cause of death of the young researcher.
Family members and mentors of the deceased said on Thursday that the American researcher killed in a rock attackthis week was a talented scientist with a bright future.
Gray, 31, was a leading researcher on how climate change affects plants, said Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar, chairman of Gray’s plant biology department at the University of California, Davis.
“She’s really an always-smiling slip of sunshine. She’s a smart, energetic scientist,” Dinesh-Kumar said. “She had a very bright future ahead of her. And everyone knew she was going to be the star in the plant biology research area.”
Gray, a post-doctoral researcher, was in Ethiopia for a meeting to kick off a research project when she was killed on Tuesday. She was traveling in a car in the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, an area that has seen months of deadly protests.
The family has started a fundraising webpage aimed at mentoring young women in science in her name.