Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 since November, and arrested tens of thousands more, in hopes of quashing protests in the Oromia region, according to a report by Human Rights Watch June 17. The report calls the killings "the latest in a series of abuses against those who express real or perceived dissent in Oromia." It also discusses Ethiopian government efforts to restrict media freedom and access to information in Oromia. Most notably, the government has restricted access to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and any "diaspora-run television stations." HRW called for the government to drop charges and release all those detained in protests, as well as a "credible, independent and transparent investigation into the use of excessive force by its security forces."
Another battle for control over urban space is heating up in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa—concerning plans to expand the city's municipal boundaries and absorb several smaller outlying towns where the traditionally excluded Oromo people are still dominant. The "Integrated Development Master Plan" has sparked a wave of protests, principally by Oromo students. Official figures say seven have been killed by police in the protests since late April, but independent reports claim the death toll is more than 20.
We are heartened to learn that President Obama is staying away from the funeral of Ethiopia's late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, whose death was announced last week, instead sending a comparatively low-level delegation led by the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. (Nazret, Sept. 2) This may indicate a long-overdue distancing of Washington from Meles' odious regime, which we fear may change little with his passing. Meles, who ruled (either as president or prime minister) since 1991, made himself very useful to Washington, "renditioning" terror suspects for brutal "interrogations" in his prisons, and even now providing a military proxy force in Somalia. After Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 (with a US "green light," and probably military advisors), Meles' forces were shortly accused of war crimes by international human rights groups. (NYT, Aug. 16, 2007) Yet this now gets virtually no play in the overwhelmingly and sickeningly favorable media coverage of his legacy—contrary to Julius Ceasar, the evil Meles did is being interred with his bones.