Students killed in Ethiopia protests

Activists claim security forces have killed at least seven students in more than two weeks across Ethiopia’s Oromia state, where students have been protesting a government plan to expand the area of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia.

Oromia police have confirmed three fatalities in what it termed provocations by “anti-peace elements.”

Images of severely injured students have been posted on social media, and hundreds of other protesters have reportedly been rounded up in a crackdown on those demonstrating against several state-led development projects.

Oromo students, the opposition and diaspora activists liken the proposed Addis Ababa and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan, or the Master Plan, to a land grab. They fear that it will displace Oromo farmers and undermine Oromia’s interests by expanding Addis Ababa’s boundaries.

Addis Ababa is in the state of Oromia and serves as the regional and federal capital. In theory, the Ethiopian constitution protects Oromia’s “special interest” in Addis Ababa in the provision of social services and use of natural resources and on joint administrative matters.

While the city, home to 4 million people, has experienced massive growth over the last decade, Oromo activists have long decried the lack of social facilities for its Afaan Oromo speakers, including schools, hospitals and cultural institutions.

The protests broke out in November Ginci, a town about 50 miles west of Addis Ababa. Students from universities, high schools and even some primary schools continue to stage sit-ins and demonstrations around the country.

Oromia, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine ethnically based states, is home to close to half the country’s population of 100 million. The Oromo people have long had a contentious relationship with the national government.

“Many Oromos have felt marginalised and discriminated against by successive Ethiopian governments and have often felt unable to voice their concerns over government policies,” Felix Horne, the Horn of Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, wrote in a December 5 blog post. – AFP

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