MP’s approve a four month extension for state of emergency

Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopian Defense Minister

The House of People’s Representatives unanimously approved the extension of the state of emergency by four months that it declared six months ago after almost a year of violent anti-government demonstrations.

The widely expected extension comes amid reports of continued violence and anti-government activities in some rural areas.

Hundreds of people were killed by security forces during the year long protests.

“We have asked many people across the country and they told us that they are happy with the state of emergency because they feel it has reduced violence and stopped the loss of life and damage to property,” Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa told members of the parliament on Thursday March 30.

“Although we have done a great job of restoring peace and security over the past five months in many parts of the country, in few places there are still some people who intend to commit violence,” he said.

“In addition, some leaders of the violent acts that we witnessed before are still at large and are disseminating incorrect information to incite violence.”

Opposition parties complain that the emergency powers are being used to clamp down on their members and activities, especially in rural regions.

The state of emergency, declared on October 9, 2016 was a reaction to protests that were especially persistent in the Oromia region.

A wave of anger was triggered the proposed Master Plan of Addis Ababa, which would have seen its boundaries extended into Oromia. Demonstrators saw it as a land grab that would force farmers off their land.

The protests soon spread to the Amhara region in the north, where locals argued that decades-old federal boundaries had cut off many ethnic Amharas from the region.

The state of emergency initially included curfews, social media blocks, restrictions on opposition party activity and a ban on diplomats traveling more than 40 kilometers outside the capital without approval.

Some provisions of the state of emergency were relaxed in mid March. Arbitrary arrests without court orders and conducting searches without court papers have been lifted. Bans and restrictions imposed on radio, television and theater, dawn-to-dusk prohibitions on unauthorized movements around infrastructure facilities and factories have also been dropped.