Following the expected fire that broke out in Kilinto, Ethiopia’s maximum security prison, which claimed the lives of 23 inmates, reports are emerging about a wave protest and unrest inside the prison system for more than a week’s time.
According to sources who talked to The Reporter, the riot broke out in the prison after the emergence of the Acute Water Diarrhea (AWD), an on-going water-born epidemic in Addis Ababa and other cities. The response of the prison administration for the epidemic is what has caused the riot and wave of protests in the prison, sources said.
The prison administration system decided that the spread of AWD in Kilinto was as a result of the contaminated food which inmates’ relatives and visitors have brought to the prison. This led the prison administration to decide to prohibit any outside food to inmates.
However, sources indicated that prison food is notoriously low quality and the fact that inmates were asked to sustain on the prison food alone was a major cause for the week-long riot and protest in Kilinto.
Sources also said that series of protests such as boycott of the prison food and inmate’s refusal to leave their prison cells has spread across the entire prison system in the week before the fateful fire.
Nevertheless, The Reporter’s sources are unclear whether the fire was directly linked to the week-long protest in Kilinto and if indeed the fire was started by an act of protest. Government statement at the time indicated that fire broke out in the prison system due a riot that broke out in the prison that day.
Thus far, no conclusive and independent investigation has been carried out to indentify the cause of the fire and how the 23 inmates lost their lives in the fire damage.
In a related news, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has announced that it will start investigating the incident in Kilinto this week. Getachew Reda, Government Communications Minster, in his recent interview with Tefera Gedamu, host of an English talk show on Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation entitled “Meet EBC” have revealed suspicion of foul play in the Kilinto fire and reaffirmed that the government of Ethiopia is keen to investigate the cause of the fire, how close 23 people lost their lives and the overall prison administration.
After the incident, the Federal Prison Administration has announced that it has moved prisoners out of the Kilinto Prison and into other prisons facilities across the country mainly: Zeway and Shewa Robit.
Before the fire, Kilinto has close to 3,000 prisoners under its care most of which include high profile politicians, journalists and business personalities. Thus far, the prison administrators have assured the families and supporters that high profile politicians such as Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), were unharmed by the fire and have been moved to other prison facilities.
In fact, Kilinto is one of the most recently built prison facilities in Ethiopia which is also believed to have better facilities than most of the other prisons in Ethiopia.