NEWS: AT LEAST ELEVEN PEOPLE, INCLUDING A DISTRICT COURT HEAD, KILLED IN MERSA, NORTH WELLO, AS PROTESTS SPREAD; RESIDENTS, A LOCAL COURT, GOVERNMENT OFFICES AND A POLICE STATION BURNED DOWN
Addis Abeba, January 27/2018 – At least eleven people “possibly more” were killed today in Mersa town, some 27 km before Weldiya, in north Wello zone of the Amhara regional state in northern Ethiopia. Several people were wounded and a local court, a police station, residences and a local administrative office were also burned down.
Today’s protest was part of a continued anti-government protest following the killing of civilians in Weldiya city during a religious festival last week on Saturday.
According to an audio record sent by a resident and was received by Addis Standard, anti-government protests erupted this morning when thousands of the town’s residents took to the streets in an area called “aware”; but then several more protests erupted in various parts of the town when security forces “shot and wounded a young man.”
“The protesters were chanting anti-government slogans and slogans denouncing the killings in Weldiya and the arrest of hundreds of people from Kobo city yesterday”, the eye witness said in the audio. According to a latest information from another source in the city, at least eleven people were killed by security forces and several others were wounded. “This number is possibly more”. The wounded were taken to Dessie and Weldiya hospitals. As of now, a hybrid of federal and regional security forces are deployed throughout the town and in localities surrounding the town. “The protests have subsided but tension is still high,” our source said.
Today’s protests followed yet another deadly protest in Kobo town between Tuesday and Friday. Yemiru Yifrashwa, a businessman who runs spare parts shop in Kobo told Addis Standard by phone yesterday that the protests in Kobo began peacefully on Tuesday when “thousands of the city’s residents took to the street to protest against the killings in Weldiya.” The harsh response from security forces triggered anger among many young people in the city,” he said, adding there were arbitrary arrests on Tuesday and Wednesday nights “when members of the federal army began searching for young people by going door-to-door; they have detained many of the city’s young people and took them God knows where.”
According to the BBC Amharic, yesterday, more than 200 people were detained by security forces in Kobo city in post-protest crackdown yesterday. “The arrests were partly what triggered today’s protest in Mersa,” the eye witness in the audio received by Addis Standard said.
DW Amharic also reported today that residents and government offices, including a local administrative office, were burned down. Furthermore, inmates have escaped from a local police station. Quoting a source, DW said that protesters have accused the Habru district court head of wounding by a fire arm three civilians. The head of the court was killed by residents in an apparent retaliation; his house was also set on fire, the portal reported.
In a televised message through the Amhara region TV station on Thursday, Gedu Andargachew, president of the region also admitted the death of civilians and property damages both in Weldiya and Kobo. The president blamed it on the regional state’s failure to deliver on its mandates, which led to “piles of grievances.” “This is ANDM’s problem,” he said referring to the party governing the region. “The result of this conflict is loss of lives, property damages and hindrance on civilians from pursuing a peaceful life.” He promised that the party will work closely with religious leaders, elders and rank and file administrative members if the region to “restore peace.” AS