An Ethiopian official said 2,000 people were detained and later released under the country’s state of emergency that was declared on October 8, 2016. The remarks came amid local media reports that thousands of people are being detained across some parts of the country that have witnessed some of the worst violence in the past couple of weeks.
“About 2,000 people were arrested and later released after undergoing counseling under the state of emergency,” Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopia’s Defense Minister and Secretary of the Command Post that was set up to oversee the implementation of the state of emergency, told local reporters on Sunday afternoon. “Besides, more than 1,500 firearms were collected that were looted during the violence in the country.”
The Minister declined to say how many people are still in detention but mentioned various military camps and prison facilities where inmates that were nabbed under the state of emergency are being held. However, he stated that 400 individuals gave themselves to authorities in the first 10 days of the emergency.
The Oromia region of Ethiopia has been experiencing renewed unrest following the deaths of dozens of people in a stampede during a religious festivity in the town of Bishoftu on October 2, 2016. Protests have also hit the Amhara region where a dispute about the status of the Wolqayit area led to deadly confrontation between protestors and security forces.
Ethiopia’s President, Mulatu Teshome, said on October 10, 2016 during an address to the Parliament that the government will address some of the public’s grievances and will conduct electoral and political reforms. Ethiopia’s government spokesman, Geachew Reda, said on Monday that the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, is expected to announce a new cabinet on Tuesday morning.
The Defense Minister said that gains have been made during the state of emergency but admitted that some rogue soldiers were caught conducting ‘illegal activities’ during the state of emergency. He also said some illegals dressed up in army fatigue have been arrested threatening the public’s peace.
However, opposition groups are claiming that their members have continued to be targeted during the state of emergency and a number of them have been arrested since its introduction. They have also expressed concern over some of the provisions under the state of emergency that they fear could curb their activities.
On Monday, Human Rights Watch has urged Ethiopian officials to promptly repeal or revise all elements of the state of emergency directive that it called are ‘contrary to international law.’
“Ethiopia’s state of emergency bans nearly all speech that the government disagrees with anywhere in the country for at least six months,” Felix Horne, Human Rights Watch’s senior Africa researcher said. “The state of emergency hands the army new sweeping powers to crack down on demonstrators further limiting the space for peaceful dissent.”