On October 8, 2016, the Ethiopian government declared a six-month state of emergency in response to the anti-government protests throughout the Oromia and Amhara regions of Ethiopia. Journalist Lily Mengesha is one of many activists who have been forced into exile due to the government crackdown on human rights activists in Ethiopia. In a new article, Mengesha describes the state of emergency as a continuation of the government’s escalating attacks on media freedom and human rights in the country that “will not deliver needed stability.”
The protests started with the frustration of the Oromo people – the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia – for being excluded from avenues of political participation. When the government proposed a plan in November 2015 to expand Addis Ababa’s city limits and displace Oromo farmers, public demonstrations became the sole available platform for them to voice their grievances. Over the past year, government actions have failed to shutdown demonstrations and their excessive use of force has only “incited more protests” throughout the country.
According to Mengesha, under the state of emergency, the government can “ban protests and rallies, writings and articles that promote protest and even the mere act of crossing one’s hands above the head, a symbol of protest used by people in Oromia.” Mengesha urges the international community to not ignore the deteriorating human rights situation in Ethiopia and to pressure the government to find a peaceful resolution to the protests.