The international community and the region are growing increasingly concerned about the continuing deadly protests by Ethiopians against their government.
The African Union Commission (AUC), which is based in Addis Ababa and is usually silent about Ethiopian affairs, has now joined other countries and organisations to express “great concern”.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, outgoing AUC Chairperson, said the protests in some regions over the allocation of farmland for development had led “to a number of reported deaths, temporary disruptions of public and private businesses, as well as occasional interruption of telecommunication services”.
She called “for a high level of restraint as well as for calm to reign” and encouraged “dialogue among all stakeholders in Ethiopia, in order to find peaceful and lasting solutions to the social, political and economic issues motivating the protests”.
“The AU Commission Chairperson reiterates the AU’s support for the respect of the rule of law, and peaceful demonstrations which are critical tenets in the upholding principles and culture democracy,” her statement said.
The United States government, which regards Ethiopia as a valuable ally in the war against terrorism as well as an important contributor of peacekeeping troops, is also becoming more critical of the Ethiopian government’s handling of the protests.
In her farewell address last week, outgoing US ambassador to Ethiopia, Patricia Haslach, urged the Ethiopian government to hear the voices of everybody and called for unlawful detentions and intimidation to stop.
“The unrest we’re witnessing currently is endangering the improvements the Ethiopian government is making, as we urge government officials to ensure constitutionally-enshrined democratic and human rights” said the ambassador, according to Ethiopia’s leading private newspaper the Reporter.
Ethiopia has been wracked by unrest since last November when the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos, began protesting over central government plans to allocate more land to the capital city Addis Ababa from the surrounding Oromo rural villages.
In July, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group, the Amhara, began protesting too.
The Amhara protest started with a botched attempt by authorities to arrest individuals seeking to reincorporate a district allocated to the neighbouring Tigray region back to the Amhara’s homeland. The attempted arrest sparked a gun battle in the northern city of Gondar leaving scores of civilians and security forces dead.
Both the Oromo and the Amhara groups accuse the Tigrinya ethnic groups which make up about six percent of Ethiopia’s population, of having a disproportionately large presence in the government, security forces and the economy.