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Ethiopia Lifts Travel Curbs on Diplomats Imposed After Protests

FILE - 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, 2016.

Ethiopia has lifted travel restrictions imposed on diplomats under emergency rule, saying calm has been restored after months of violent protests.

Over 500 people have been killed in unrest since last year, triggered initially by anger over a development scheme for the capital, which demonstrators said would force farmers off their land in the surrounding Oromiya region.

The protests evolved into broader demonstrations over politics and human rights and led to attacks on businesses, many of them foreign-owned, prompting the government to declare a six-month nationwide state of emergency in October.

The emergency decree included restrictions on opposition party activity, curfews and a ban on diplomats traveling more than 40 km (25 miles) outside the capital Addis Ababa without authorization.

Authorities had said the purpose of the ban was to ensure diplomats' safety.

"Diplomats can now move to any corner of the country without notifying the Command Post since peace and stability has been restored," the state-run Ethiopian News Agency quoted Defense Minister Siraj Fegesa as saying on Tuesday.

Almost all other restrictions remain in place, it added. Mobile internet service and social media remain blocked in the capital.

After issuing the decree on October 9, the government acknowledged it had to broaden democracy in a country without a single opposition deputy in its 547-member parliament.

A new government of technocrats has since been sworn in, in a reshuffle meant to respond to grievances.

The government has announced the release of around 2,000 people who it said had taken part in attacks on businesses.

The violence in Oromiya, Ethiopia's largest and most populous region, and to a lesser extent in Amhara province, has overshadowed the success story of one of Africa's fastest growing economies.