World Bulletin / News Desk
Getachew Reda told a news conference in capital Addis Ababa that the emergency powers were not “blanket” laws but “an effort… to address security challenges, especially threats against civilians, civil ways of life [and those] that target infrastructure.”
He warned that “armed gangs are roaming the country” and promised the use of lethal force by security forces “will be kept to the minimum possible.”
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced a state of emergency on Sunday following violent protests across the Oromia region last week.
The Oromo, who make up Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, have been protesting against the government since November last year. Demonstrators initially targeted a plan to extend the boundary of Addis Ababa, which the Oromo said would force them off their land, but the protests have since widened to address political and economic exclusion.
According to Human Rights Watch, security forces have killed more than 400 people since the start of unrest and on Oct. 2 at least 56 people died in a stampede triggered when police fired bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds at a Irreecha celebration in Bishoftu.
This led to an escalation, with demonstrators blocking roads leading into and out of the capital and targeting businesses including foreign-owned factories.
Reda said the government would initiate contact with political parties to address grievances. He also indicated a ministerial reshuffle could happen in two weeks.
On Sunday, Hailemariam suggested there was foreign support for the violence and Reda pointed the finger at Egypt.
“There are elements in the Egyptian political establishment, which may or may not necessarily be directly linked to the Egyptian government, who, however, are promoting Egypt’s historical rights,” he said. “So we have ample evidence that training has happened; financing has happened in Egypt.”