Ministry briefs Addis-based Ambassadors on the current situation in Ethiopia

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given briefings to the Addis Ababa-based Ambassadors of Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and Africa over the last week on the current situation in Ethiopia.  State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Taye Atske-selassie met with African Ambassadors on Friday last week (August 19), Middle East and Asian Ambassadors on Monday (August 22, 2016) and with the Ambassadors from Europe and the Americas on Tuesday (August 23) to talk about recent events, focusing in particular on the recent protests that have occurred in parts of Amhara and Oromia Regional States and the government's responses.

Ambassador Taye shared detailed accounts of the recent incidents, and explained the causes of the protests in Oromia and Amhara regions as well as the cautious efforts undertaken by the Federal and State Governments to manage the situation. The State Minister gave details of the immediate cause of the protests that led to the disturbances in the Amhara Regional State at the end of July and the beginning of August. He noted that most of these demonstrations in both the Amhara and Oromia Regional States were made without taking appropriate permission from the respective regional authorities. Nevertheless, although the messages and slogans were unconstitutional in nature, the demonstrations were peaceful at the beginning.

They turned violent later. As days went by, clashes between demonstrators and law-enforcement agencies in various instances caused casualties, leading to loss of life and destruction of properties. It became apparent that the demonstrations were being directed by social media outlets operated externally. This was when the government felt it was necessary to take further action to contain the situation, to provide for the continuation of law and order and ensure accountability of those elements engaged in violence.

Concerning the recent protests in Oromia region, the State Minister noted that the earlier unrest in the Oromia Regional State had revolved around criticisms of the Addis Ababa -Oromia Special Zones' Joint Master Plan for the capital. In response to these criticisms and the demonstrations against the Plan, the regional government had abandoned the Master Plan. It was clear that the unrest that followed subsequently had nothing to do with the Master Plan.

The State Minister emphasized that there were certainly genuine reasons for the protests, legitimate concerns that included lack of governance and failure to respond to public concerns effectively or quickly enough. There were other questions related to self-administration and the need to create consensus and awareness with regard to federal constitutional arrangements, over the continued lack of employment opportunities and the lack of service delivery. Part of this, of course, came from the expectations that have arisen from the country's substantial recent development and the failure to deliver on these expectations.

Once again, legitimate issues and questions were taken over by destructive elements. The demonstrations became openly linked with violence and acts of lawlessness which led to loss of lives. The State Minister said that in both cases, in Amhara and Oromo Regional States, demonstrations were organized through social media and other media outlets well known for publicizing extensive extremist agendas. In these instances, the underlying cause of the protests and the genuine issues under consideration, were being twisted to drive violence and cause disruption and disturbance in attempts to threaten the country's stability.  

The State Minister said that the demands of protestors with genuine grievances served the government and the people as a mirror for valuable reflection on governance. However, the concerns of the demonstrations had been manipulated by those waiting to further their extremist aims. There were some external forces, he warned, who wanted to use the protests as an opportune moment to define and change the geopolitical landscape and destabilize the sub-region using ethnicity and religion. This was totally unacceptable. Ethiopia would never allow its survival and territorial integrity to be compromised by any means.

Equally unacceptable was the violence and the deaths whether of civilian protestors or law enforcement agents. "For Ethiopians," the State Minister emphasized, "the death of one is always too many." This was why the Federal Government was launching independent and detailed investigations into the deaths and injuries that had occurred during the protests. These would be carried out in close consultation with all stakeholders. The Government would, as it has always done on previous occasions, make sure that those who were responsible for violence or any other illegalities would be accountable. The outcome of the investigations would be made public.

Ambassador Taye also gave further updates about the on-going government efforts in response to the situation. The Government is now conducting a series of widespread discussions, intensively engaging with various segments of the population, the youth, rural communities, religious communities and leaders, political parties and others. It is taking note of lessons to be learnt from recent events. The country is moving into a new period allowing the country's transformation and development to continue with a changed and improved momentum. The public is showing interest and concern to use legitimate channels, via debates and discussions, to put issues on the table, and provide acceptable solutions. From now on we can expect issues, problems, difficulties to be resolved in a committed and determined manner with administration and people working closely together.  

Ambassador Taye emphasized that Ethiopia was one of the major powers of the region with a strong position in terms of its ability to leverage its power. Adversarial forces that that believed that the slightest nudge might cause the country to fall apart were completely wrong. The vital interests and survival of Ethiopia would be protected and defended by its people at all times.