After almost a year of anti-government protests, Ethiopia on Tuesday (Oct. 11) admitted that the death toll from police crackdowns and deadly stampedes could exceed more than 500 people. The admission came a few days after the government declared a country-wide six-month state of emergency, and blamed external forces for trying to break up the nation of over 100 million people.
Hailemariam Desalegn, the country’s prime minister, said that the death toll in Oromia region had been at least 170, while another 120 died in Amhara since the demonstrations began. But “when you add it up it could be more than 500,” he said. Activists and opposition groups have disputed these numbers in the past, arguing that more people died when security officers dispersed demonstrations.
he continued protests and the recent emergency is a tipping point for one of the fastest rising economies in Africa. The Oromo and Amhara communities, who together make up over 61% of the country’s population, have been protesting against land grabs and human rights violations.
Desalegn was speaking at a press conference in Addis Ababa alongside the German chancellor Angela Merkel, who signaled her support for the protestors. Merkel said her country was already “working in Oromia to de-escalate the situation there by offering mediation between groups.” Merkel also said her government would help train the police officers so that they can better deal with demonstrations.
Despite the unprecedented admission, the Ethiopian prime minister warned against what he called “violent extremist armed” groups, adding that his government would deal with them “in a proportionate manner.” Ethiopia’s information minister Getachew Reda had earlier in the week