Ethiopia: 400 arrests, the government defends its response to violence
More than 400 people have been arrested as a result of the violence that killed 78 people in Ethiopia last week, a spokesman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Thursday.
“The latest information I have about the (alleged) perpetrators of violence is that 409 individuals” were arrested, said Billene Seyoum during a press conference. She added that the investigation was continuing and that more suspects could be arrested.
Violence erupted on October 23 during protests against Abiy in Addis Ababa and much of the Oromia region, after a controversial activist, Jawar Mohammed, accused the security forces of trying to foment attack against him, accusation denied by the authorities.
The clashes were between protesters and the police, but also communities between them for three days.
The toll of these violence has risen to 78 dead, said the spokesman of the Prime Minister. A previous assessment last week by the police chief in the state of Oromia, Kefyalew Tefera, reported 67 dead.
Abiy, who came to power in April 2018 and won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, was criticized for his government’s response to the violence and for delaying issuing a statement.
Mrs. Billene denied that the prime minister was “weak” and accused “elements” opposed to his program of reforms – which he did not name – to be behind the violence.
There has been pressure in recent days for Mr. Abiy to take action against Jawar Mohammed, but Ms. Billene has refused to say whether the government considers him responsible for the violence.