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Ethiopia Government Unveils Rules for State of Emergency

A man attends a prayer session at Biftu Bole Lutheran Church during a prayer and candle ceremony for protesters who died in the town of Bishoftu two weeks ago during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Oct. 1

The Ethiopian government has unveiled stringent rules for its state of emergency which the opposition says is meant to curb a wave of protests, sometimes deadly, in the Oromia region and other areas.

Hundreds have been killed in anti-government protests in the past year, according to human rights groups and opposition activists. The protesters have been demanding wider freedoms in one of Africa's best-performing economies.

On Oct. 2, more than 50 people were killed in a stampede after security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters during a religious festival in Bishoftu, southeast of the capital. The incident sparked more violence in Oromia leading the government to announce the state of emergency. The government has also enforced an internet blackout.

Ethiopia doesn't need a state of emergency said Yilikal Getnet, chairman of the opposition Blue Party, Sunday. People have only been expressing their dissatisfaction with the government, he said.

The rules announced late Saturday restricts the movement of diplomats 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside of Addis Ababa without official permission. The emergency prohibits anyone from making contact with groups that are labeled as terrorist and from watching media channels like Oromia Media Network and Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio, according to a statement issued by Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopia's minster of defense and head of the Command Post set up to oversee the state of emergency law. Those who break the terms of the emergency risk jail terms of three to five years.

The emergency also outlaws rallies and public meetings without permission from authorities and gives security forces the right to detain and search suspects without a court order.

Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, the Oromo, began protesting almost a year ago when the government proposed annexing some of their land into the capital, Addis Ababa, as part of a drive to transform this largely agricultural nation into a regional manufacturing power. While the government later abandoned the idea, the protests broadened into demands for more rights and for the release of detained activists, opposition figures and journalists.