Ethiopia is set to welcomes its New Year, 2009 EC, in the shadows of months-long and bloody political unrest and violence, particularly in the Amhara and Oromia regional states, which is continuing into the New Year taking different forms such as ‘stay home’ protest and sabotage of cross-country transportation routes running through the two regions.
Hindrance to transportation services and other protest tactics are expected to put pressure on the New Year festivities and the customary holiday shopping spree, according to observers.
In several places of the Oromia Regional State a stay home protest has been taking place since Tuesday after a campaign called by activities through social media, which is expected to stay for one week until September 12, 2016.
However, transport services have been halted in some places after several vehicles were attacked by protestors who threw stones at mass transportation vehicles passing through these protest areas. Due to these attacks, several people who travel to and from Addis Ababa mainly for holidays and other business have suffered due to the lack of safety and guarantee of security.
A gender activist, who works for an international NGO, speaking to The Reporter said that she had to depart from Hawassa as early 4:00 AM to come to Addis Ababa; although it was against the policy of her organization just to avoid running into protestors. She said they had no option other than driving before dawn fearing that she might be stranded there due to the ongoing civil disobedience in areas like Shahsemene and various places along the way.
Apart from that, activities have been calling for protesters to stifle the supply of commodities coming to markets in Addis Ababa, which is intended to intensify the pressure against the government by disrupting the regular business activities.
Among transport companies that have suffered from the protests is the privately owned Selam Bus SC. According to the company, one of its buses was attacked recently, this week, while it was en route from Addis Ababa to Harrar. Such damages have been common place on Selam’s buses in the past few months. However, the most serious damage that is sustained by Selam Bus, which is complete burning down of the transportation vehicle, happened in July during the protest held in Gondar, which forced the company to suspend its services on that route.
General Manager of Selam Bus SC, Abebe Ayalew, told The Reporter that “the company is trying to maintain its services by immediately mending minor damages like shattered glasses and going out on the road to give its regular service. But, it has not yet decided whether the service to Gondar is to resume soon or not.
According to the information The Reporter solicited through sources, movements has been highly affected around Jimma, Shashamene and eastern Ethiopia mainly near Harrar, Arsi and some other areas.
Sky Bus SC, on its part has admitted that it has sustained minor damage on three of its buses en route to Dire Dawa recently. Nevertheless, the company told The Reporter that it has no immediate plan to suspend or interrupt its services at the moment.
In a related development, dozens of artists including singers, DJs, and comedians, residing both in Ethiopia and abroad, have cancelled their concerts and festivals scheduled for New Year’s eve this week on the grounds that it would not be fair to celebrate when people are mourning those who have lost their lives in the recent protests.
At least Ethiopian 21 singers have backed out of their gigs to be held in various venues in the capital, Addis Ababa, and other cities.
There has been an unprecedented wave of protests in Ethiopia in recent months.
Demonstrations began in the Oromia Regional State last November and have spread to the Amhara Regional State in the last few months.
Apart from that, over the weekend, at least 23 inmates have died in a tragic fire which broke out at the maximum prison facility located in Kilinto, on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.