The Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency effective immediately following a week of anti-government violence that resulted in deaths and property damage across the country, especially in the restive Oromia region.
In a televised address on Sunday morning, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the state of emergency was declared because there has been “enormous” damage to property.
Protests reignited this week in the Oromia region – the main focus of a recent wave of demonstrations – after dozens of people were killed in a stampede on October 2, which was sparked by police firing tear gas and warning shots at a huge crowd of protesters attending a religious festival.
The official death toll given by the government was 55, though opposition activists and rights groups said they believe more than 100 people died as they fled security forces, falling into ditches that dotted the area.
According to government officials, factories, company premises and vehicles were burnt out completely or damage during the recent wave of protests. Many roads leading to the capital, Addis Ababa, were reported to be blocked.
The anti-government demonstrations started in November among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, and later spread to the Amhara, the second most populous group.
Though they initially began over land rights, they later broadened into calls for more political, economic and cultural rights.
Both groups say that a multi-ethnic ruling coalition and the security forces are dominated by the Tigray ethnic group, which makes up only about six percent of the population.
The government, though, blames rebel groups and foreign-based dissidents for stoking the violence.