Opposition leaders in central Ethiopia said security forces have killed more than 40 people in recent weeks, amid protests against a government development plan.
Demonstrators began holding rallies late last month over a plan to expand the city limits of Addis Ababa, the capital.
Critics in Ethiopia's Oromia region said the plan would displace local farmers and rob the area of its autonomy.
Oromo Federalist Congress leader Bekele Nega told VOA's Horn of Africa service the government is trying to crush the protests. He said troops have broken into innocent people's homes, while other Oromia residents tell VOA they have seen soldiers shoot civilians.
The government put the death toll from the protests at five, not including four police officers it said were killed Tuesday in Oromia.
The Ethiopian government said the protests have been infiltrated by extremists, including hardliners from Ginbot 7 and the Oromo Liberation Front, groups the government considers terrorist organizations.
Muktar Kedir, president of the region, said, "No development will take place without the consent of the public."
Nega disputes that, saying the government has not been inclusive during the drafting of its development plan for Addis Ababa.