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Death Toll from Ethiopian Protests Rises to 86

PM Abiy Ahmed at an inauguration event in Addis Ababa, November 2018.
PM Abiy Ahmed at an inauguration event in Addis Ababa, November 2018. (Photo: Aron Simeneh

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister of Ethiopia is struggling to contain a recent outbreak of violent protests sparked by a rival leader.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad announced the new death toll from October protests in the Arab-African country was now estimated at 86, as Abiy told the nation in a televised press conference on Sunday. Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for ending the 21-year-long hostility with neighboring Eritrea, called on his citizens to avoid violence and solve differences by means of dialogue and reconciliation.

The peace-making PM, during a speech aired on the state-run Fana TV broadcast, pointed the finger at unidentified “forces”  attempting to cripple Ethiopia’s current efforts for progress.

“As our country has gone a step forward, some forces are pulling it two steps back,” Abiy said during the weekend televised press conference.

Abiy previously hinted at the subversive influence of well-known and controversial media activist Jawar Mohammad who owns Oromia Media Network. On October 23, Mohammad, who has American citizenship, mobilized his supporters to take to the streets in protest of what Mohammad said were attempts by “security forces” to undermine him.

“Using their second nationality and foreign passports as an advantage, these media owners are likely to run away to their safe havens after inciting conflicts and leading the country into chaos,” Abiy said just prior to the outbreak of protests in October.

Last year, Mohammad played an influential role in Abiy’s appointment as Prime Minister of Ethiopia. However, he eventually began to criticize some of Abiy’s policies. Mohammad and Abiy both belong to the Ormoro ethnic group, the largest across Ethiopia.

As Al Jazeera explained, “Since his appointment last year, Abiy has initiated political reforms which have won him international praise but also lifted the lid on long-repressed tensions among the many ethnic groups in the country of more than 100 million.”

In reference to the death toll, Abiy said that among those killed were 82 men and women, 76 of whom were killed by “communal clashes,” while the remaining 10 were killed by security forces. Abiy added Ethiopia’s two major ethnic groups – the Oromo and the Amhara – compromised the majority of the casualties, with 50 Oromo and 20 Amhara ethnic killed as a result of the violence.

Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

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