By Kayla Ruble
Published on January 8, 2016
In the two months since peaceful, student-led demonstrations against the government’s expansion plan for the city of Addis Ababa began spreading through Ethiopia, activists are reporting that security forces have killed more than 140 demonstrators to date.
Saying that the clashes could be the East African country’s “biggest crisis” in the last decade, Human Rights Watch has released a report highlighting the number of protesters killed, noting that many more have been injured. The protests pit the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, against the government’s Addis Ababa and Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Development Plan. Activists claim the development agenda will swallow up Oromo land and displace farmers as the capital expands outward.
“It seems like the crackdown is becoming much wider,” Human Rights Watch Horn of Africa researcher Felix Horne said, explaining that unlike in the past the demonstrations have continued despite the violence from security forces. “It’s not going to calm the protests, it’s just going to flame the protests even more.”
The demonstrations sparked spontaneously at the end of November in Oromia, the nation’s largest state and home to 27 million people (including the 3.3 million living in Addis Ababa). Ethiopia is not only the fastest growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa, but the International Monetary Fund has rated it one of the five fastest growing economies in the world. The development plan falls in line with that growth and includes plans for building highways, roads, parking lots, market areas, and an airport.
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