By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 17, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) -The Ethiopian government over the weekend issued a set of directives and rules to implement a state of emergency it declared last week.
- Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016 (Reuters Photo)
Effective from 8 October, the Ethiopian government imposed a state of emergency in the wake of continued anti-government protests across its Oromia region.
The state emergency imposed for first time after over quarter a century, includes shut down to internet access and ban on all social Medias which had been major tools to organize protests in Oromia and Amhara region.
The rules within the state emergency include travel restrictions on diplomats.
Accordingly, diplomats are not permitted to travel beyond 40 kilometers of the radius outside the capital, Addis Ababa. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has also been imposed around areas where factories and major projects are based.
As per the new directive, however, security personnel can search suspects, search homes or arrest anyone who violates the rules without court authorization.
The new directive also grants the police and all security forces a power to defend themselves from any threat or attack.
Publishing news and distributing documents or republishing reports of anti-peace elements or opposition movements branded as terrorist entities is prohibited.
It also bans following Medias owned by terrorist designated groups such as the Ethiopian Satellite Radio and Television (ESAT) and Oromo Media Network.
Although access to internet and Social Medias remain shutdown for weeks now, the regulation also bans exchange of messages through social Medias or mobile phones.
During the six-month long state emergency period, no one is allowed to show protest gestures or make public gathering.
Heavy troops are expected to be deployed in many parts of the country to quell protests and to guard borders too.
An estimated 500 people have been killed during months-long anti-government protests in the Amhara and Oromia regions.
Renewed protests erupted after a religious festival taking place in Oromia’s Bishoftu town on October 2 turned into a violent anti-government protest, claiming the lives of 55 in a stampede that was triggered after police fired tear gas to disperse protesters.
According to the government, the state of emergency was declared in order to restore order and contain violent protests expanding to many parts of Oromia region.
International bodies including the United Nations and the European Union have called on the Ethiopian government to engage in dialogue with protesters.
The High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has called the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, to respect democratic principles and civil rights in the country.
Mogherini, who is also Vice-President of the European Commission, said there was a need to initiate an inclusive political dialogue within the shortest possible time.
According to an EU statement the dialogue ‘‘will require space, not restriction”
She further underlined the need for transparency and determined engagement by the government to respond to the grievances of the population.
Ethiopia has accused Eritrea and Egypt of backing the unrest to destabilize nation.
Ethiopia’s communication minister, Getachew Reda said the foreign elements are arming and financing opposition groups, but not necessarily with the formal backing of their governments.
An Ethiopian diplomat, told Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity, that there was evidence linking Egypt with the latest crises, but ruled out its government’s direct involvement.
Egypt’s intention, the diplomat claimed, was to delay construction of the massive Renaissance dam and ultimately attack it by creating nation-wide crises and destabilisation.
“There is ample evidence that Egypt provided training and financing to the Oromo Liberation Front, labeled a terrorist organisation by Ethiopia”, Getachew told reporters.
The state-owned Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) has repeatedly aired a video showing Egyptians pledging to support Oromo movements. In a meeting two sides held recently, Egyptians reportedly agreed to provide all the necessary support needed to overthrow the Ethiopian regime.