In what seems as defiance to the ratification of the state of emergency (SoE) by the House of People’s Representatives (HPR), businesses and public services stayed shut for three days in Oromia region since Monday, March 5, 2018. This action is one of the prohibitions the SoE brought into effect.
The SoE, the second one for the country in 17 months, was announced by the Council of Ministers on February 16, triggering a widespread opposition to its decree. The majority of the opposition to the decree came from activists both from within the country and abroad. The demand from activists over social media was the total abolishment of the decree and they gave an ultimatum to the parliament not to ratify it. This is because the constitution requires the SoE to be ratified by the parliament.
The Council of Ministers announced the SoE in the wake of the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessaelgn.
According to the Constitution, the Council of Ministers have to present the state of emergency it announced to the parliament, within 48 hours, given the parliament is not on recess. If the parliament is on recess, the proclamation has to be presented to the house within 15-days, starting from the day of announcement.
The case being the latter one, the parliament approved the state of emergency in a controversial emergency session with 395 yay votes, while 88 members voted nay and seven abstained.
This makes the SoE the first historic legal document to see huge number of nay votes from the parliament following the proclamation issued for a drivers’ license. The proclamation saw 67 nay votes while 30 MPs abstained.
But, at the conclusion of the emergency session called for Friday March 2, 2018, the house speaker Abadulla Gemeda announced, the yay votes were 346 to later apologize for his “calculation” mistakes. It was later that the communications director of the parliament called media houses to correct the number, mentioning that the counting was erroneous.
The passing of the proclamation into law by the HPR, plus the buzz created by the speaker’s error prompted a three-day shutdown in Oromia. The opposition to the SoE came from the belief that there is no sound reason to announce it at this point in time.
Prior to the strike, the government has been warning social media campaigners and their followers not to do what they have planned.
On the day of the strike, the Federal Attorney General, Getachew Ambaye, briefed the media regarding the finalized first draft implementation directive of the state of emergency. The directive provides that hampering transportation services, creating problems on public services, affecting the works of the security apparatus as well as campaigning to create riots and violence are prohibited during the state of emergency.
On March 7, 2018, Defense Minister and Secretariat of the Command Post, Siraj Fegessa, announced that 17 members of the security have been injured and artilleries were snatched from security forces although he did not mention the exact location where this happened. He also mentioned that there are people detained for disobeying the provisions of the state of emergency.
After the announcement of state of emergency road blockades were witnessed, after which, Siraj said that 80-90 percent of the roads in the country have been opened until March 7 except for roads from Addis Ababa to Ambo, Nekemte, and Assosa.
Through the three-day shutdown in Oromia, transport activities both into and outside of the capital was hampered leaving public transportation bus stations empty.