The Ethiopian government's Human Rights Commission has declared that 669 people were killed during the uprising of 2016, a figure that is significantly lower than other numbers reported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The unveiling of the report took place on April 18 in a parliament that is completely controlled by the government. Addisu Gebregziabher, the head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, read out the commission’s main findings to Ethiopian parliament, which placed the burden of responsibility for the bloodshed largely on opposition groups: “The violence happened because protesters were using guns and security forces had no other options”.
Gebregziabher said the “negligence” of security forces was also a contributing factor, albeit a minor one.
Several human rights organizations, however, have reported that it was largely security forces firing on unarmed demonstrators.
Until the movement was subdued in October 2016, when Ethiopia declared a state of emergency, thousands had been demonstrating across Ethiopia. The protests began in April 2014 in Oromia, the largest of nine ethnically federated states, against a plan to expand the territorial limits of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, into neighboring Oromia villages and towns. The Oromo people have historically been persecuted by those in power in Ethiopia, and the plan was viewed as yet another encroachment on their rights. Over the following months, the protests expanded into other states, with participants rallying behind broader grievances against the government.
The government responded brutally; according to Amnesty International, at least 800 people were killed, while opposition groups and activists put the figure in the thousands.