Hundreds in S. Africa protest rights abuses in Ethiopia

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Ethiopian government has denied claims that its security forces killed dozens of protesters last week

Hundreds of Ethiopian refugees living in South Africa protested in Johannesburg Thursday condemning the recent killing of 97 protesters in Ethiopia, allegedly by security forces.

Abdurrahman Musa Jibro, leader of the Oromo People’s Association urged the South African government to help them persuade Ethiopian authorities to stop alleged human rights violations in their country.

“We urge you to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to stop killing its own citizens,’’ Jibro said in an address to more than 700 protesters who were waving flags and signs, of which some read: “We need freedom and justice”, “Release political prisoners”.

Last week, Amnesty International said at least 97 people were killed and hundreds injured when Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters in different parts of the country.

Protests were held in capital Addis Ababa and in the northwestern city of Bahir Dar in the Amhara region last weekend, complaining about alleged government discrimination and planned incidents of land-grabbing. Police responded by opening fire on them.

The protests are part of a wave of demonstrations that began in Ethiopia last November after the government proposed to expand the boundaries of the capital city of Addis Ababa into the Oromia regional state.

Many ethnic Oromo farmers expressed fear they would lose their farmlands, after the government’s proposed expansion plan known as the “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master plan” is implemented.

The Ethiopian government has denied human rights reports that its security forces killed dozens of protesters.

An official at Ethiopia’s Amhara regional state told the government-affiliated broadcaster, Fana Broadcasting Corporation, that only seven people had been killed in last week’s protests in Bahir Dar, the state’s regional capital.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees live in South Africa where they eke out a living in the different sectors of the country’s economy.