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Burayu, 23 km west of Addis Abeba, was deserted for the third day today


Liyat Fekade

Addis Abeba, March 07/2018 – Presenting the first report since the national parliament legislated the controversial state of emergency, Siraj Fegessa, the defense minister and chairman of the command post established to oversee the implementation of the emergency rule, said that some of the protests that flared up in various parts of the country were taking the form of “color revolution”due to the tendency of “attempts to seize state power by some actors” who are instigating the protests.

Speaking at a presser this afternoon, the defense minister also said security forces dispatched to enforce the decree have sustained violent push backs in various places that included confiscations of their weaponry and physical harm. Seventeen security forces were hurt so far, according to Siraj. He also said several areas have witnessed property damages including looting, breaking ins and torching of government offices – particularly Woreda and Kebele offices – as well as burning of public buses and government vehicles. Four vehicles were torched beyond repair and ten vehicles, including public buses, were destroyed in various places.

Siraj’s presser came on the third and last day of Oromia-wide strike called by online activists to protest against the state of emergency. Scores of businesses, civil service offices and schools have been shuttered in many parts of the regional state since Monday morning. Transport services connecting the capital Addis Abeba to various places in the region have also been affected due mainly to road blockages. Siraj said from 80% to 90% of the blockages were already cleared but roads leading from the capital to Nekemt and Assosa in western Ethiopia remained closed and the work to clear the road from Addis Abeba to Jimma via Woliso was ongoing. He blamed the online activists as ‘anarchists’  who want to violently seize state power. According to him, some of the boycotts were happening because citizens were scared for their security.

Siraj said the public should not believe rumors that the central government was weakening and added that the government has never been  stronger than it is now.
The reinstated state of emergency was met with protests even before the national parliament ratified it. Protests have flared up in Nekemt, Wellega, in western Ethiopia, on the weekend of February 25 and 26 following a standoff between members of the opposition party, Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and federal security forces who prevented the former from entering the city of Nekemt where the opposition leaders were planned to address a gathering of 30 thousand strong in the city stadium.
Amid spreading protests in the aftermath of the incident in Nekemt, on Feb 27 the Command post said its patience against what it called “anti-peace elements” has run out and it no longer tolerates any form of disruptions to public lives; it said it instructed security forces “to take necessary measures to restore peace.”
But civilian causalities have picked since then as more than a dozen individuals were killed, including two elders in Oromia and Amhara regional states, who died on Saturday and Sunday last week in the hands of security forces. On Saturday, Digafe Danda’a was shot dead in Guder town, about 12 km west of Ambo. Digafe was shot along with his son, Tarefe Digafe, who is admitted at Black Lion Hospial here in the capital. And on Sunday Derbe Ayele, 72, has killed himself after a shoot out with members of the command post when they insisted in searching his house. Reports say that six members of the command force were also killed before Derbe took his own life, according to Ethiopia Live Updates. Derbe received a hero’s burial yesterday in Amhara regional state, north Achefer woreda.
Apart from deaths, which Siraj didn’t elaborate much about, members of the command have detained individuals suspected of participating in the protests, he said without mentioning specific areas or the number of people detained. However, government officials are among the detained, according to The Reporter Newspaper. Among them, chief administrator of east Hararghe, deputy administrator of east Wellega zone, the Mayor of Nekemt and head of the justice bureau of Kelem Wellega Woreda.  AS
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