World, Africa

Ethiopia: Army deployed in troubled Oromia areas

Protests erupted after call for help by high-profile activist Jawar Mohammed over fear of arrest

Addis Getachew Tadesse   | 25.10.2019
Ethiopia: Army deployed in troubled Oromia areas FILE PHOTO

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

Ethiopia deployed its federal army in troubled areas in Oromia regional state where dozens are reported to have been killed in clashes.

Clashes erupted Tuesday in several towns in Oromia regional state -- the country's most populous region -- when high-profile activist Jawar Mohammed called for aid from supporters over fears of arrest by federal police.

Over the past few days, Oromo youths, known as Qeero, blocked roads in the eastern towns of Harrar and Diredawa, central areas of Bale, Shashemene, Adama, Bushoftu and even in the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, among other places.

A dozen people are reported to have been killed as Mohammed's supporters clashed with crowds of people who came out in defense of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who Mohammed allegedly criticized.

Ahmed was attending an Africa-Russia summit in Sochi at the time of the clashes.

Federal police admitted they had planned to revoke a security detail assigned to the activist, while denying any attempt to arrest him.

National Defense Forces said in a statement on Friday that the Oromia regional state government had asked them to intervene and that army units had thus been deployed in the region to maintain law and order.

Major General Mohammed Tessema, head of army public relations, said: "In coordination with elders, law enforcement bodies and the youth, we have been managing to stabilize situations in problem areas."

Roads and institutions were being opened following the deployment, he said.

Qeeros were in the forefront of anti-government demonstrations that led to a major shakeup of government power alignment within the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, upon which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power on April 2, 2018.

Activist Jawar -- criticized for reckless, ethnically-loaded remarks -- had come back to Ethiopia from exile in the U.S. upon a call by Ahmed that disgruntled diaspora Ethiopians should feel free to return to the country and engage in peaceful politics.

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