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Ethiopian Government Lifts Ban on Demonstrations


The Ethiopian government says it is lifting a two-month-old ban on post-election demonstrations. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council says that the death toll from last month's demonstrations is higher than official government figures.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had imposed the ban on protests in the capital, Addis Ababa, and surrounding areas.

But, following violent demonstrations in early June over dissatisfaction with provisional election results, the government extended that ban for another month. The government says 26 people were killed in clashes with security forces during those protests. The Human Rights Council says the number is higher.

Information Minister Bereket Simeon tells VOA, the government will not renew its ban when it expires Friday. He says people are satisfied with the government's efforts to investigate suspected election irregularities.

"The situation is very calm," he said. "People have been waiting anxiously to hear from the National Election [Electoral] Board on July 8th. The National Election Board has declared results for the 307 constituencies, and the remaining are being investigated. The investigation is moving along the agreed line by all the stakeholders. So, basically, the people seem to be content with the process."

Mr. Bereket tells VOA that, according to government figures, 26 people were killed during the demonstrations in early June.

But the Ethiopian Human Rights Council said Thursday that, according to its investigations, more than 36 people died during the demonstrations.

The council's head of investigations, Birhanu Tsigu, tells VOA, his group is still gathering information.

"Actually, it's not yet complete, because we are still receiving reports of missing people, dead people. There are lots more missing now, and we are trying to find out if they are under detention or if they are dead. So we'll get a complete picture after some more investigation has been done," he said.

The government's Mr. Bereket denies there are still people missing, and accuses the human rights council of being run by the opposition.

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