Ethiopia: Cardinal calls for a return to calm after protesters killed in anti-government riots
17 August 2016
Amnesty International estimates that as many as 97 people have been killed
Catholic bishops made a passionate plea for peace as security forces continue to brutally suppress anti-government protests in Ethiopia.
Chaos can never be a way forward, said Cardinal Berhaneyesus, head of the Church in Ethiopia, as Ethiopian police were reported to have killed hundreds of protesters during riots in the regions of Oromia and Amhara in recent weeks.
Amnesty International puts the death toll at nearly 100, and other rights groups have suggested the number of dead is higher, although the government disputes these figures.
Protests were sparked earlier in the year by government plans to expand the boundaries of the capital, Addis Ababa, into farmland within the Oromia region.
Authorities scrapped the land scheme proposal in January, but protests have flared again over the continued detention of opposition demonstrators by the government.
Underlying the protests is a long held complaint that the Oromos, who make up around a third of the population, have been excluded from the country’s political process and its economic development.
“Ethiopian forces have systematically used excessive force in their mistaken attempts to silence dissenting voices,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
Imploring the government to engage in peaceful dialogue with protestors, rather than violence, the Cardinal, reading from a statement released by the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops on 13 August, added that chaos was a hindrance to growth and development.
“Ethiopia is on a well-established track towards development, we must continue to work hard, hand-in-hand to stay on this road of changing our history of poverty and maintain a steady economic growth,” said the Cardinal.
Cardinal Berhaneyesus also expressed sorrow for those who lost lives or were injured during the demonstrations, adding that the Church was appealing to all Ethiopian Catholics to become instruments of peace.
The Bishops appealed to a sense of patriotism among young people, urging them to work towards a peaceful and developed Ethiopia.
At the root of the recent demonstrations in Amhara is a request by representatives from the Welkait Amhara Identity Committee that their land, which is currently administered by the Tigray regional state, be moved into the neighbouring Amhara region.
The demonstrators accused the government of rights abuses and marginalisation of ethnic communities.
There is no formal connection between the protests in the two separate regions.