Ethiopians on Edge as Infrastructure Plan Stirs Protests

Ethiopians on Edge as Infrastructure Plan Stirs Protests
Ethiopians on Edge as Infrastructure Plan Stirs Protests

BURAYU, Ethiopia — There are creeping signs of tension in this small town on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the capital. Small groups of federal police officers prowl the streets, eyeing taxi stands and coffee shops. On a side road near the town center, a rectangle of black soot and a single burst tire mark the site where a bus recently went up in flames.

One resident, who asked that his identity not be revealed because he feared persecution for speaking openly, said this whole town had been on edge, especially after the security forces quickly quelled a protest this week.

“There are rumors that two students died, but we don’t know their names because the government uses different ways to keep its actions secret,” he said.

Since late November, dozens of violent confrontations have erupted in towns across Ethiopia’s central Oromia region, home to the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo. Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress opposition party, estimates that at least 50 people have been killed in clashes with security personnel over the past few weeks, affecting dozens of towns across Oromia.

This protest movement is “far, far bigger” than anything the country has experienced since the governing party came to power in 1991, Mr. Merera contended. In towns outside the capital, witnesses have reported fatalities, ransacked buildings and gunfire.

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