New ban on protests, just months after the state of emergency was lifted

Over the past two months, ethnic violence and brutal police crackdowns in the Oromia and Somali regions have displaced at least a thousand people, according to a local human rights group. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has noted that the current needs of internally-displaced people surpass available resources. As previously reported on the Monitor, increasing tensions and clashes between ethnic Oromos and Somalis in August 2017 claimed an unconfirmed number of lives. On 22nd October, a regional government official said that 11 people had been killed during ethnic clashes in Oromia state in the preceding week. 

A document presented at the National Security Council meeting on 10th October 2017 and leaked by the Addis Standard newspaper revealed that Ethiopia faces "an alarming level of multi-front crises", and the situation has “resulted in genocide and mass displacement of people[...]inhuman and atrocious killings of civilians; and created a moral and psychological scar among the victims.”

Peaceful Assembly

On 10th November, the government announced a ban on public demonstrations and rallies across the country, as part of a national security plan to consolidate peace and security. The new ban follows the 10-month state of emergency that was lifted in August 2017. The government also vowed to prosecute officials who compromise state security. Despite the ban, authorities allowed a protest to take place by Eritrean refugees and opposition groups against the Eritrean regime on 15th November. 

On 26th October, security forces killed at least ten people and wounded 20 in the town of Ambo in Oromia, as they fired live ammunition on a crowd that had gathered due to a rumour that a shipment of smuggled sugar would be coming through the town. A sugar shortage has plagued the country for months, almost tripling the price. 

Expression

On 8th November, the Federal High Court acquitted journalist Elias Gebru and opposition member Daniel Shibeshi of criminal charges. Both were arrested on 18th November 2016 under the State of Emergency provisions after posting a photo of themselves on social media with crossed arms above their head, a symbol of support for the protests in Oromia and Amhara. Gebru and Shibeshi were released on bail in August 2017 after months in detention without official charges, while they were also subject to a travel ban that has now been lifted with the acquittal. 

Association

On 27th October, five civil society organisations - including Ethiopia Human Rights Project (EHRP) - issued a joint letter to British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to negotiate the release of government critic Andargachew Tsege, a British citizen who has been on Ethiopia’s death row for over three years. Ethiopian authorities have accused Tsege of collaborating against the government and convicted him of terrorism offences in absentia in 2009. He was seized at an international airport in Yemen in June 2014 and transferred into Ethiopian custody shortly thereafter, where he was held in solitary confinement for over a year.