The latest law approved by the House of People’s Representatives a week ago has sparked a growing unrest in prisons across the country where prisoners in various parts staged protests and damaged facilities claiming they deserved to be freed, the government said on Wednesday.
According to the Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO), protests has so far broke-out in seven prisons across the country after the parliament passed a law granting amnesty to dissidents in an extraordinary session on July 20, 2018.
Since early this week, inmates attempted to escape by lighting fires in the prisons, Federal Police Commissioner General, Zeinu Jemal said in a press conference on Monday.
A separate fire at a prison in Mekele, Tigray Regional State, has killed two prisoners, the regional authority disclosed on the same day without giving details as to whether the blaze was connected to the riot.
“It is against the constitution and will hamper the peace, unity and the togetherness spirit of the people,” state minister of GCAO, Kassahun Gofe said in a press conference on Thursday. He said that the riots were due to a lack of “understanding” about the amnesty law.
The prisons affected by riots were in Debre Markos, Shoa Robit (Amhara Region), in Addis Ababa (Killinto and Kality prison) and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region.
The reprieve was part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s reform agenda with the intention to make peace with various opposition groups.
Since coming to power in April, thousands of prisoners including high-profile opponents have been released.
Earlier this month, the government has announced that senior officials of the Federal prison Administration has been sacked for “failing to discharge their responsibilities and respect prisoners’ human rights.”
The announcement came as Human Rights Watch sounded the alarm over torture, rape and starvation at a notorious prison in the country’s volatile Somali region.