Why Are Students in Ethiopia Protesting Against a Capital City Expansion Plan?

Students in Ethiopia Protesting
Why Are Students in Ethiopia Protesting Against a Capital City Expansion Plan?

Why Students in Ethiopia Protesting

Over the past two weeks, students in Ethiopia’s largest regional state, Oromia, have been protesting against a government plan to expand the area of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia. Reports [1] suggest security forces used violence [2] including live ammunition to disperse crowds of peaceful demonstrators in the compounds of universities in Oromia.

According to Human Rights Watch [3], at least three students [4] were killed and hundreds were injured across the region as security forces used excessive force to disperse student protesters. Other reports put the number of students killed up to ten [5]. Although protesters are primarily university students, in some instances, high school and primary school children were also reportedly involved in intense confrontations with government forces.

At least nine students were killed [6] by government forces in May 2014 while protesting over the same issue.

The persecution of Oromo people

The students argue that the controversial plan, known as “the Master Plan”, to expand Addis Ababa into Oromia state would result in mass evictions [7] of farmers mostly belonging to the Oromo ethnic group.

It wouldn’t be the first time the government has uprooted members of an ethnic group. Thousands of ethnic Amharas in western Ethiopia were expelled [8] from the country’s Benishangul Gumuz region in 2013 in what critics called “ethnic cleansing”.

The students have other demands such as making [9]Oromo [10]a federal language. Oromo, the language of the Oromo people, is the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia and the fourth largest African language. However, it is not the working language of the federal government.

According to Ethiopian Constitution, Oromia [11] is one of the nine ethnically [12] based and politically autonomous regional states in Ethiopia. Oromo people [13] make up the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. However, the group has been systematically marginalized and persecuted [14]for the last 24 years. By some estimates, there were as many as 20,000 Oromo political prisoners in Ethiopia as of March 2014.

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