State of Emergency Ends as Deadly Protests Erupt in Oromia

On 4th August 2017, Ethiopia’s parliament lifted the country’s 10-month-long state of emergency that was imposed in October 2016 after hundreds of people were killed in anti-government protests. The nationwide state of emergency, with its heightened restrictions and greater police power, led to mass detentions, politically-motivated criminal charges and numerous restrictions on people’s movement and communications. Despite the end to the state of emergency, thousands still remain in detention without charge, and politically-motivated trials of opposition members, journalists and artists continue to be held. In addition, none of the grievances underlying the 2016 protests have been addressed by the authorities.

Peaceful Assembly

During the second day of a five-day, stay-at-home strike in the town of Jimma in the Oromo region, a bomb exploded on 24th August injuring at least 13 people. The opposition had organised the strike to demand the release of political prisoners

On 12th September, 18 people died and thousands fled deadly protests in eastern towns of Ethiopia, according to a spokesperson from the Oromo regional government. The protests came after weeks of tension and clashes on the border of the Oromo and Somali regions of Ethiopia. Although much remains unknown and there are conflicting views from spokespersons with the two regional governments, activists have accused a special unit of police from the neighboring Somali region, known as Liyu police, of killings and violations. The government has blamed the clashes on an ongoing border dispute between the Oromo and their neighbours in the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Expression

On 3rd September, authorities stopped popular singer Tewodros Kassahun, known as Teddy Afro, from launching his much-acclaimed album Ethiopia, the fastest-selling album in the country's history. Teddy Afro enjoys an almost cult-like following in Ethiopia, and his historically and politically relevant music has drawn the ire of the government on several occasions. As reported previously on the Monitor, Ethiopian authorities have cracked down on artists deemed too critical of the current regime, as shown by the seven artists and producers who were arrested in December 2016 and charged with terrorism in June 2017. 

According to classified documents published on 13th September by The Intercept, since 9/11 the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has expanded a clandestine network of eavesdropping outposts with the Ethiopian government, designed to listen in on the communications of Ethiopians and their neighbours across the Horn of Africa in the name of counter-terrorism. In exchange for local knowledge and an advantageous location, the NSA provided Ethiopian authorities with technology and training to conduct electronic surveillance, which has then been used to commit egregious human rights abuses in the region and silence dissenting voices in the country.