Hailemariam Desalegn: Ethiopia's state of emergency could end sooner

United Nation's human rights experts on Monday called for a worldwide probe to investigate the violence used on protesters, saying 600 people had been killed in a violent crackdown.

Curfews have not yet been issued, but a command post headed by the prime minister has been assembled to judge where and when they should be put in place "should the need arise", Ethiopia's attorney general Getachew Ambaye said on state-run television when the state of emergency was announced October 9.

The two countries have always been in a dispute over a massive hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, with Egypt saying the project will reduce its share of the river's flow. The government says the attacks are being orchestrated by "foreign elements".

"Foreign investors are viewed as parties to the regime's development agenda and part of the wider worldwide community's tacit support for Ethiopia in spite of human rights transgressions", Mark Bohlund, an economist with Bloomberg Intelligence in London, said by email.

Though they initially began over land rights, protests later broadened into calls for more political, economic and cultural rights.

Since November of a year ago, Ethiopia's Oromo people - the country's largest ethnic group - have been staging protests against perceived political and economic marginalization.

Getachew said the state of emergency meant there would be a "lower threshold for the use of force".

Renewed protests erupted earlier this month when a religious festival taking place in Oromia's Bishoftu town turned into the anti-government protests, claiming the lives of 55 in a stampede that was triggered after police fired tear gas to disperse protesters.

She would address representatives from the AU member states and the diplomatic corps in the new plenary hall, according to a statement from the German Embassy in Ethiopia.

The meeting in Addis Ababa last week came hours after the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that Egypt was supporting the Oromo Liberation Front, which has been leading protests against the Addis Ababa government. The two regions are home to more than half Ethiopia's total population of 99 million people. An American woman was killed in a rock attack by protesters on the outskirts of the capital.

The crowd was both celebrating the annual Irreecha thanksgiving festival and holding up banners and fists as a show of protest against human rights abuses inflicted on the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups.

Tens of thousands have also been detained, they say.

"I think it can quickly settle down and we don't even need six months of the emergency period that's been set", Hailemariam said in an interview Tuesday in the capital, Addis Ababa. A government spokesman said Ethiopia's security forces will be reorganized during this time to better respond to the protests.

The clashes have led to the deaths of at least 500 people, according to data by Human Rights Watch.

  • Leroy Wright