The violence took place in Ethiopia's Oromia region, where a religious festival was taking place in an attempt by the government to show that the area is safe and peaceful. Despite this, the anti-government protests continued and an altercation with the police ended up with countless people injured and 52 confirmed deaths.
"As a result of the chaos, lives were lost and several of the injured were taken to hospital," a spokesperson of the government said in a statement, as reported by The Guardian. "Those responsible will face justice."
Varying reports claim several things. While some of the protesters said that the police opened fire, the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn denied it. Others claimed that there are at least 300 people injured. BBC reports that the injuries and deaths happened after a stampede broke out in reaction to the tear gas, rubber bullets, and baton charges were deployed and enforced by the police.
The anti-government protests stem from the people's frustration of the continued and apparent economic marginalization of the administration. Last year, the unrest worsened because of the government's plants to allocate land to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. Unfortunately, the land that they wanted to allocate belonged to farmers of the Oromo ethnic group. Although the plans were scrapped early this year, the protests continue.
The stampede happened in the town of Bishoftu amid the annual religious festival of thanksgiving. Apparently, a part of the crowd began chanting "we need freedom" and "we need justice." Elders who were seen to be in alliance with the government were prevented from giving speeches. Some of the eyewitnesses claim that the protesters threw stones and bottles at the security forces to which the latter responded by deploying tear gas and baton charges.
The growing unrest in Ethiopia has managed to kill almost 400 people during protests alone. The alarming number has piqued the interest of the United States and they have expressed concern over the excessive use of force by the police.
Backed by the desire to achieve freedom and justice, and the desire to be heard and recognized as human beings, protesters are expected to continue demonstrations even in the face of the steadily increasing numbers of people who have died in the process of antagonizing the government