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ANDUALEM SISAY | Thursday | 17 December 2015 | The Nation
ADDIS ABABA, Wednesday The opposition has accused Ethiopian security forces of killing at least 32 people in Burayu region on the outskirts of Addis Ababa in the past few weeks.
The dead, claimed the opposition, include Oromo students who took part in two recent anti-government demonstrations.
Presenting the names, the relatives and the homes of the victims, the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum (Medrek), told the government to stop the killings as they were a violation of people’s rights and the constitution.
The party also urged Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to respond to the demands of the protesters in a peaceful “and civilised” manner.
“How could the military and police shoot children demonstrating against the killings of their brothers and relatives? We keep recording such crimes perpetrated by this regime,” said Medrek Chairman Beyene Petros.
“One day, we will take the people who are committing these killings to an international court.”
Medrek came third in the May general election, which the ruling party and its allies won with a landslide.
A 10-year-old boy was among the protesters killed by security forces in Burayu on Monday, according Merera Gudina, the vice-chairman of Medrek.
Oromo students have been holding demonstrations against the Addis Ababa city expansion plan, which they say would encroach on the land owned by small-scale Oromia farmers.
Dr Merera said the government was buying one square metre of land for four to five birr (a quarter of the US dollar) and selling it to investors for 20,000 birr ($1,000).
“Where is this huge profit going? Will it really change the lives of farmers who used to live on that land? Are we doing something that sustains the lives of these farmers and their families, such as helping them own bank shares that protect them from becoming beggars when the money is finished?” Dr Merera asked.
He added that about 150,000 farmers were evicted from around Addis Ababa following the disputed May 2005 general election in which 193 demonstrators were killed.
The government maintains that the new Addis Ababa master-plan is aimed at benefiting the Oromo people living around the city through roads, railways, schools and other “better infrastructure”.
A week after the protests erupted and the students’ deaths reported, the government issued a statement in the media saying the master-plan was at the draft stage and would not be implemented without consultations with the people.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism task force has warned that it will take “appropriate measures” against terrorist and rebel groups following deadly protests in the southern Oromia region.
It accused the unnamed groups of attempting to destabilise the government and the region, the state-owned broadcaster reported.
The task force said some students of the Oromo ethnic group were disturbing the peace “on the instruction of foreign-based terrorist groups”.
The protests against the government’s master-plan to integrate some parts of the Oromia regional state into the capital, Addis Ababa, have left an undisclosed number of people dead and many others injured.
Others were arrested and are in custody.
On Tuesday, the government said five had died in the protests sparked by land-grab fears.
Campaign group Human Rights Watch said the protests appear similar to those of 2014 when police were accused of opening fire and killing many demonstrators.