Ethiopian Government Violently Quashes Protests

Ethiopian Government Violently Quashes Protests in Addis Ababa

 

Ethiopian Student Association International

PRESS RELEASE April 23, 2001 Posted to the web April 23, 2001

 

Addis Ababa

 

At least 39 Ethiopians were killed and over 250 wounded by police gunfire on April 18 as lashes between Ethiopian police and civilians escalated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, following student protests demanding greater academic and political freedom.

 

Chronology of events (complied from reports by BBC, Agence France Presse, Reuters, Daily Monitor, UN Integrated Regional Information Network, Pan African News Agency, Addis Tribune, and Ethiopian News Agency-no reports seen to date on CNN or Associated Press): Tuesday, April 10: Over 3,000 students at Addis Ababa University started boycotting classes to press several demands, including: The re- instatement of the student council The right to have council representatives nominated by students rather than university officials Resumption of publication of the banned student newspaper Representation on the university senate A say in the nomination of the university president and drafting of the university charter.

 

Wednesday, April 11: While students were holding a peaceful demonstration, hundreds of police armed with rifles and batons invaded the campus, where they violently beat and shot at students. About 50 students were hospitalized, several with severe injures, includes head injuries and broken arms and legs. Other students were arrested.

 

Fleeing students were pursued to their dormitories, where pools of blood, broken batons, shattered glass, and bullet holes in the wall were later witnessed by BBC's Nital Bahalla, who photographed injured students and a wall and floor spattered with blood. Monday, April 16: A second round of talks involving student leaders and government officials reportedly deadlocked over the timing of the withdrawal of the armed police from campus. The Ministry of Education gave the students a deadline to return to classes by noon Wednesday or face permanent expulsion from the university.

 

Tuesday April 17: In the midst of a peaceful rally by university and secondary school students outside Addis Ababa University campus, a group of about 100 protestors started throwing rocks and bottles at the police. Hundreds of riot police then trapped the protestors along a small road and charged at them from all directions.

 

Here is the eye-witness report of BBC's Nital Bhalla, who characterized the incidents she witnessed at "brutal". As the rioters dispersed, the special force officers pursued them beating them mercilessly, even as the rioters continued surrendered and pleaded with them to stop. Many lay motionless on the ground as the police continued to beat and kick them. Some of the officers stormed the homes of civilians living and working in the area, looking for more of the rioters, but finding none then began beating women and young children. As I tried to record the screams of the women, they turned on me and began pushing and shoving me out of the way. They snatchedmy camera as I tried to take pictures of the atrocities, saying that I should not portray Ethiopian to the world in this way. When I protested, they grabbed the sound recorder and threw it to the ground smashing it to pieces.

 

At least two people had been killed by police gunfire by Tuesday evening, and many more wounded. On Tuesday evening, protestors set fire to eight cars parked at the Organization for National Examination.

 

Wednesday April 18: Long before the noon deadline fro students to return to their classes, sounds of automatic rifles and ambulance sirens were heard in various areas of the city. Cars and pedestrians fled from the directions the gunshots were being heard.

 

Two students were killed when police forced themselves into the Menelik II High School. One was severely batoned on the head and the other was hit by a rubber bullet on the head. Over 15 ambulances were witnessed coming in and out of the school compound to remove the many injured. Students sought refuge in neighboring churches and mosques. Hundreds were later rounded up by the police in spite of protesting clergy, forced into military trucks, and driven 20 miles away from the

city to the Ethiopian Police College at Sendafa.

 

The Ethiopian government warned opposition political parties to "refrain from trying to Exploit the situation and promote anarchy in the city, "and closed the university indefinitely. Local schools were closed until Monday.

 

Thursday April 19: The streets were clam as police patrolled in armored vehicles.

 

Parents whose children had not returned home gathered at the mortuary gates. Families demanded to know the whereabouts of the arrested students.

 

The opposition Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), reported that one of their members, Tawfic Lale weshengo, was shot dead by security forces at this home, and that about 40 EDP members were arrested, including secretary general Lidetu Ayalew and executive memberTamirat Tarekegn. EDP President Admasu Gebyhew denied the arrested members had any role in the violence. "We do not entertain violence as a means of political struggle," he told Reuters. "We are against the use of violence."

 

"Unless the government takes tough and appropriate actions, it has become difficult to maintain peace and security of the public," the federal police said in a statement released to the press. The statement also said that "the so-called human rights organization have attempted to snatch weapons from the riot police." State radio and television referred to demonstrators as "hoodlums and thugs".

 

Amnesty International waned that Ethiopian security forces were using "excessive force against students and other demonstrators" and said security forces had reportedly fired at demonstrators and were continuing to round up people. Hospitals could "hardly cope with the number of those injured".Solidarity protest have taken place at other universities and colleges throughout the country. The body of a dead student was found in Michele in northern Ethiopia, after he had taken part in peaceful protests there against police brutality at Addis Ababa University.

 

Among the US organizations that have expressed concern about the injured and arrested students are the New York Academy of Sciences, Ethiopia Student Association International, Stanford University Ethiopian Students Union, San Jose State University Ethiopian Students Association, UC Berkeley Ethiopian Students Association Alumni, Delaware State University Ethiopian Students Union, and UC Davis Ethiopian Students.

 

Copyright 2001 Ethiopian Student Association International. Distributed by

AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).