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Human Rights Commissioner on unrest in Ethiopia

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (17 August):

"It is with great concern that I have been following the news of unrest in Ethiopia, which has now spread from the Oromia to the Amhara region and to Addis Ababa and culminated most recently in a weekend of violence in the course of which some 50 people were killed in clashes with security forces. I call on all the parties involved to enter into an inclusive dialogue and to refrain unconditionally from further violence. I would like to offer the victims’ families my condolences and to wish those who have been injured a speedy recovery.

Rights guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution such as the freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly must be protected. Steps taken by the security forces during demonstrations must not violate the principle of proportionality.

I firmly believe that the redistribution of land for development and investment purposes, as well as the reorganisation of administrative districts, must proceed in a participatory, transparent and socially acceptable manner. It is important to take the legitimate demands of ethnic groups and opposition forces into account in this process. All sections of the population must benefit from the economic progress achieved in Ethiopia in equal measure. I therefore call on the Government to enter into a constructive dialogue with the entire population while drawing on local forces and strengthening federal structures. This is the only way to calm the situation and to ensure peace in the long term."

Background information

Since November 2015, there have been repeated demonstrations and protests in the Oromia, and now also the Amhara region against the central government and the structural discrimination of the provinces and their ethnic populations. The Ethiopian Government has responded to this with censorship, intimidation and violence on the part of the security forces. As was the case in previous protests, the Government first blocked social media and news services before shutting down the whole of the Internet across the country.

There are no confirmed figures for the number of victims. However, it is safe to assume that several hundred people were killed from November 2015 to May 2016 (more than 400 according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch). The Ethiopian Government has not confirmed these figures.

Alongside the turbulent region of Oromia, Gondar (in the Amhara region) has become a further trouble spot in the country in recent weeks. The violent arrest of a number of activists from the Welkait ethnic group on 14 July has given rise, within the space of just a few weeks, to a more significant protest movement whose end is not yet foreseeable.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Germany - Federal Foreign Office.