PM tells public to refrain
A new clash between security forces and protestors reignited yesterday in Gonder town of the Amhara Regional State in connection with what sources said is because of a delayed court case of Demeke Tsegaye (Col.), one of the prominent members of the Welkait Amhara Identity Committee, who has been under police custody.
Sources told The Reporter that Demeke, who was due to appear before court this week did not and since the the court will go on recess for a month the public outrage erupted.
According to sources, police used tear gas to disperse protestors which, according to the same sources, were covering wider parts of the town.
Appearing on Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) yesterday evening, Gedu Andargachew, Chief Administrator of the Amhara Regional State, said that human casualty and property loss have been incurred. He, however, did not mention the number of human casualties.
The latest clash came five days after what was unprecedentedly heralded as a “peaceful” demonstration, where thousands of residents of the north western historical town of Gondar took part in.
Sunday’s protests is said to have inspired more demonstrations to be staged in more towns across the nation, particularly in Oromia and Amhara regional states.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn yesterday said at a press conference with state-owned media outlets that the public should refrain from illegal public demonstrations called on social media by unknown individuals. He also described the public demonstration as being non-representative of the interests of the people of Oromia and Gondar. However, the regional administration of Amhara conceded that the protests were instigated because of maladministration, which it said would be rectified.
The Chief Administrator of Oromia, Muktar Kedir, said at a press conference on Thursday that no one has formally made notifications for demonstration.
Located 725km north of Addis Ababa in the Amhara Regional State, the protest in Gondar has come two weeks after the deadly clash in which shooting broke out when the Anti-Terrorism Taskforce moved to detain a group of individuals including those known as organizers of a movement for the reassignment of Welkait district from Tigray region to Amhara region.
The taskforce said that the individuals were wanted for crimes, while the supporters of the movement countered by saying that it as a political crackdown which later caused the killings of eleven security officers and five civilians.
It can also be recalled that the violent demonstrations led the US government to issue a temporary travel ban to Gondar through its Embassy in Addis Ababa urging the temporary travel restriction warning its citizens living in Gondar.
Though there were claims that the protests had ethnic elements in them, it was observed on videos circulated on social media, which was later confirmed by the regional government’s communications office, that demonstrators were chanting and displaying placards conveying messages that their discontent was with the government, not the people of Tigray.
Hence, the mass protest in the town, which involved tens of thousands of people, is also said to be a rare example of an anti-government demonstration in the country as it ended without seeing any confrontation among individuals and security forces.
As a result, the Gondar protest is said to have already inspired more protests widening to Debre Tabor town and the region’s capital, Bahir Dar, which according to social media posts, are scheduled for today and tomorrow, respectively. Social media activists have also called for similar protests in different parts of Oromia.
The Welkait committee said that community members identify themselves as ethnic Amharas and say that they no longer want to be administered by Tigrayans.
Though demonstrations began a fortnight ago, leaders of the Welkait community said that they have made their request about a year ago.