Ethiopia is set to end its state of emergency

In protest.
In protest.
Image: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
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Ethiopia’s parliament has voted to lift a nationwide state of emergency that was imposed in October last year following deadly anti-government protests. The emergency rule was declared following demonstrations by the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara, against the Tigray-dominated government.

The demonstrations initially began in Nov. 2015 in response to the government’s “Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan,” which sought to expand the capital into neighboring towns and villages inhabited by the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group. The Oromo said the plan would displace farmers and stymie the growth of their culture and identity. In July 2016, the Amhara also joined the protests citing grievances related to land.

The government responded with force against the protesters, leading to the death of 669 people, according to a government-mandated investigation, and the detention of thousands of others. The government also shut down the internet, potentially draining millions of dollars from the economy, and banned posting about the protests on social media. Watching Oromia Media Network and Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio, outlets run by Ethiopian diaspora supportive of the protesters, was also deemed illegal.

The protests over land reform and political participation also hurt the economy and undermined the country’s significant economic growth over the last 25 years. At the height of the protest in August and September 2016, flower farms and foreign commercial properties worth millions were burnt. Observers also noted that the protests risked affecting the cotton industry, and limit the country’s ambitions to become a global apparel destination.