News / Africa

    'Unprecedented' Protests in Ethiopia Against Capital Expansion Plan

    Map of Oromia region of Ethiopia
    Map of Oromia region of Ethiopia
    Marthe van der Wolf

    Students from the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia have been protesting for three weeks against an urban expansion plan around the capital that they fear will lead to land grabs without proper compensation. Security forces have clashed with demonstrators, killing at least five people this week.

    The student protests have spread quickly through the Oromo region that surrounds the capital. Farmers and other citizens have been joining the demonstrations.

    The government accuses some of the protesters of trying to destabilize the country.

    Restricted access

    One resident, who wished to remain anonymous out of concern for his safety, said security forces deployed to the region are controlling many access points to stop more people from joining the movement.

    “Most of the protesters are farmers," said one resident. "They came from the rural village into the town. The defense forces, already some of them left to the local areas, to the rural village. The police is also arresting some of those participants.”

    The Ethiopian government says it can confirm five deaths from clashes with security forces, while opposition groups say 60 people have been killed so far.
    Amnesty International said Wednesday the protests are being “violently suppressed.”
    Protests against the "Addis Ababa Integrated Regional Development Plan" also erupted in April 2014, resulting in mass arrests and several dozen deaths during clashes with security forces.

    Expansion plan

    The master plan is an expansion blueprint for the capital. Citizens in the surrounding Oromia federal regional state say they are concerned the proposed infrastructure will gobble up their land and endanger their cultural heritage. Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, making up about a third of the population.

    The government promised to hold inclusive consultations on the master plan after the 2014 protests. Opposition leader Merera Gudina of the Oromo People’s Congress said those discussions were never held.

    “We try several times, they refused. Then we tried to organize open public meetings, again they refused, they blocked us," said Gudina. "Then what we got is this. People are really fed up of this government, their life, especially the young people are fed up of everything.”

    Merera is calling for the scrapping of the master plan and transformation of the regional government. The government says the master plan has not been implemented yet, though opposition groups allege that farmers already are being evicted.

    Stress points

    Protests in Ethiopia are rare. The ruling party has been in power since 1991 and won all seats in parliament during the last national elections in May.

    Tensions are there, however, said Hallelujah Lulie of the Institute of Security Studies.

    “I think what we are witnessing is an unprecedented level of protests. And I don’t think the security forces and the government was prepared for such level of movement," said Lulie. "And also I believe, it showed us the ill-preparedness of the state to handle such kind of demands.”

    Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. Still, almost a third of its population lives below the poverty line, and millions of people are being affected by an ongoing drought this year.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
    by: Ezra G. from: NY
    December 21, 2015 2:31 AM
    It's called Imminent Domain, used by every Western nation to appropriate land for infrastructure development.

    Media hypocrisy when it comes to Africa is suffocating.

    by: Mills
    December 20, 2015 6:31 AM
    It is very sad to see people getting shot for no reason, but land grabbing.

    by: Anonymous
    December 19, 2015 10:43 PM
    it just a shame to be an Ethiopian. Using Gun to kill the unarmed students. It is just a shame only we the black who have no respect for our brothers. We are so small thinkers that we fall into the trap of ethnicity. Are we really different from each other, no matter the language difference we all barely able to feed ourselves. Shame on all the goverment officeres who are afraid to speak up. Today you may go home give a kiss to your family when you go home but your brothers on the other side are saddend by death. May Godbless the those who died

    by: Shona from: USA
    December 19, 2015 2:51 PM
    The surrounding Oromia towns don't have to be incorporated under Finfinne (Addis Ababa) in order to develop. If there is a genuine desire to help them develop, it can be done without including them under Finfinne administration.
    The "master plan" is the master way to grab Oromo land. TPLF wants to destroy Oromo language, culture, and heritage. They want to sell the Oromo land and enrich their pockets. We say NO to the "master plan." #Oromoprotest.

    by: yadeta morka
    December 19, 2015 2:21 PM
    Oromo people do not hate any group of people in Ethiopia and beyond. We are demanding our rights enshrined in the constitution.

    by: Ifa Waya
    December 19, 2015 12:57 AM
    I do think every one on this forum really knows what is really going on the ground at this moment. The TPLF regime is broadcasting as always a lie. The so called TPLF fool the people with repeated lies. Of course, I don't support any one breaking a single infrastructure that has been built with the people. But the TPLF" kadres" do all evil things and blame on innocent people.
    In Response

    by: Nardos from: Ethiopia
    December 19, 2015 7:46 PM
    How convenient, blame all the burning and looting on the government. This type of 2 year old childish denial is why nobody takes Oromo seriously.

    by: Yodit from: Ethiopia
    December 18, 2015 4:07 PM
    Protesting to remain peasant farmers, against roads, electricity, schools...

    Oromo, always wrong (old Ethiopian proverb).
    In Response

    by: Free
    December 19, 2015 7:23 AM
    @Yodit Gudit,
    For proverb you can find thousands. That was the way how killer governments led this nation at the expense of peoples blood.
    Now let us see if you kill all Oromo from Ethiopia and other nationalities keep quite on this.
    In Response

    by: Tilahun Yimir from: Addis
    December 19, 2015 3:36 AM
    What makes all of you "Right" all the time, makes all of us (Oromos) Wrong all the time! (new Oromia proverb).

    by: Dhugasa Basa
    December 18, 2015 8:43 AM
    @Muna, every one is with th e government on this one? Really? The protest is not against the rest of people. It is against TPLF which stands for Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front. Tell me who are they liberating Tigrean people from? Aren't they the governmwnt with power? If they stand for unity let them act like it and start with changing their name and then include the rest of Ethiopian people in the process. When is the liberation project going to be completed? They are busy amassing wealth through hundreds or thousands of businesses they control against the law. TPLF by definition can not represent the rest of Ethiopian people. Their agenda is to loot as much as possible while they can and who knows what their ultimate agenda is? Tigrean republic? ??

    by: Free
    December 18, 2015 8:28 AM
    I have totally lost respect for this inhumane governance and let us stand together for the good cause! Anybody's blood can't spill without cause and ultimately justice will be served sooner or later!

    by: Aman from: Tafo
    December 18, 2015 7:41 AM
    Those troops sent to oromia recently has no concept about the culture and way out of these community.They are torturing children in front of their family,and fathers in front of the children. This tottally death for the community. cultural they choose death to this action intsead. How animals in human are these troops. Actually they don't care because they have forgotten what Dergi (mengistu H/Mariam ) has made to them.They are repeating the same. This implies their life is come to an end.

    This the typical charater of dergi at its final days.The protesters are so peaceful. One thing I want to tell to Ethiopian government is that nothing can stop these highly grieved people from securing his freedom. Not gunfire,,,,whatever. You are killing clever oromo students and safely protecting yours !! This is so immoral and you will pay it back !!!
    Comments page of 2

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora