News: Military, police disperse crowds in Bahir Dar after authorities disallowed opposition rally

There were heavy presence of the regional police & special forces as well as members of the federal security forces in Bahir Dar ahead of a rally which was disallowed by regional authorities.
Pictures: As sent to Addis Standard by activists  

By Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb

Addis Abeba, October 28/2020 – Heavy military presence in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara regional state, has prevented several people who were gathering for a rally initially called by the opposition National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) for today.

Despite regional authorities’ decision to disallow the rally, which was called to denounce repeated deadly attacks on civilian members of the Amhara community in various parts of the country, and subsequent warning of consequences, several residents of the city of Bahir Dar gathered this morning in places such as Papyrus roundabout but were met with a heavy presence of the federal military, regional police and militia, according to two residents of the city who spoke to Addis Standard by phone.

Miseganaw, a resident of the city who asked to be quoted by his first name only, said: “we have been at Papyrus roundabout since 6:30 AM; as the number of participants increased we started chanting our slogans out loud. When we shifted to the road leading to Saint George, we were met with heavy police presence and we were forcefully dispersed.’’ According to him, security forces, especially members of the riot-control squad of the regional special police, used batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Another eye witness who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said security forces have arrested unknown number of participants while they were trying to take the injured to various health centers in the city. Addis Standard’s attempts to reach the city police were to no avail.

Today’s rally was called by NAMA and was planned to take place in cities across the Amhara regional state with a follow up rally called on November 01 in Addis Abeba. However, it was disallowed by the regional government whose communication bureau head, Gezachew Muleneh said that the rally was not sanctioned by the regional state. He warned that security forces, including the police, will take appropriate measure on anyone contravening the statement.  

Yesterday, the police in Addis Abeba surrounded NaMA’s senior officials who were discussing about the announcement by the regional government and ways in which the rally could be conducted “preventing our members from leaving the compound”, according to the statement released by the party. Subsequently, NaMA said that it would no longer take any responsibility for a possible rally to be held today since its members were prohibited from coordinating the rally by traveling outside of the capital.

The regional government’s decision to ban the rally was condemned by Amnesty International as “illegal and unnecessary.”

“People have a right to protest to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. They should not be killed, injured or arrested simply for expressing their views but instead they should be able to count on the protection of the authorities in exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa. AS   

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