The Current

Ethiopia using state of emergency to target opposition, says critic

Editor of an online publication for the Oromo people, Mohammed Ademo says Ethiopia's current situation is appalling and the government needs to end the state of emergency and offer concessions to avoid a civil war.
Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha - the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, Oct. 2. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)

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On Oct. 8, the government declared a state of emergency after protests intensified in reaction to the government's heavy-handed crackdown at an Oromo religious festival earlier this month. Government forces fired tear gas into the crowd gathered to celebrate.

The Oromo people have been protesting for months, saying they are persecuted and marginalized by the government.

The government says 52 people were killed in the stampede as the crowd rushed for the exit, but opposition parties say as many as 600 people died. 

Editor of Opride — an online publication for the Oromo people — Mohammed Ademo says this latest state of emergency declaration gives security forces leeway without incrimination.

"Security forces now have the right to arrest anyone without warrant," Ademo tells The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay. 

"They can shut down media. They have already cut the internet for the past 10 days. It just means that they can kill without any question, and any accountability."

People wash the face of a man after police used teargas during the Oromo new year holiday Irreechaa, Oct. 2, 2016. (Zacharias Abubeker/AFP/Getty Images)

Ademo says in the past 10 days, the situation has been "truly appalling"

"I've heard from a mother who couldn't take her sick child to a hospital and her baby died. And she couldn't even 
go rally the neighbors to help her buried the body. She had to bury her dead baby alone."

Ademo tells Chattopadhay that people even fear venturing outside after dark because they could be killed.

"People are terrified."

Ademo says he feels helpless in Washington, D.C. — removed from the abhorrent stories he hears.

"You can't really do much. But we are trying our best to you know get the story out to raise awareness so that 
more people know about it, and hopefully show some concern."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith.