Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has condemned the recent protests in the country’s regions of Amhara and Oromia.
According to Ethiopian-based Fana Broadcasting Corporation, Prime Minister Desalegn described the protests as “unauthorised” and said they “had no owner”. His comments come after tens of thousands of Ethiopians took to the streets of Gonder in the northern region of Amhara on Sunday, July 31, to protest the government’s unequal distribution of wealth in the country. Protesters claim this situation has impoverished the people of Amhara and left the region underdeveloped.
The demonstrations were organised via social media, using the hashtag #AmharaProtests and #GonderProtests. They went on in spite of a government order prohibiting all public gatherings and demonstration without permission. The protesters displayed banners that read “Restore the historic border” and “Stop mass killing of Amhara people.”
The Indian Express reports that the demonstrators were also demanding a change in government and more representation for their people in government. They say they feel largely excluded from government by the ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is mostly controlled by people of the Tigrayan ethnic group.
Last week’s action is only the latest in a string of protests that have rocked Ethiopia lately. In November 2015, protesters in the region of Oromia took to the streets in opposition to a government policy that they feared would strip poor farmers of their land and further impoverish them.
Some of the demonstrators in Amhara used the latest protests to express solidarity with the Oromo people, many of whom were killed in the November protests. Human rights groups say the heavy-handed government clampdown against the Oromo protests left hundreds dead and many more injured. A report released by Human Rights Watch in June put the number of protesters killed by the Ethiopian security forces at over 400, with thousands more imprisoned by the authorities.
Rights groups have criticised the Ethiopian government for its practice of clamping down heavily on opposition-led protest movements and suppressing all voices of dissent. The government also continues to censor both the online and traditional news media.