Ethiopia protests: What’s behind the trouble in Gondar?

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Ethiopia protests: What’s behind the trouble in Gondar?
Sunday’s protest in Ethiopia involving thousands of people in Gondar, a city in Amhara region, is a rare example of an anti-government demonstration in the country.
It was organised on social media but no group has taken responsibility for it. The demonstration comes two weeks after another protests in the city in which 15 people died, including members of the security forces and civilians.
What’s behind the protests?
At the root of the recent demonstrations is a request by representatives from the Welkait community – known as the Welkait Amhara Identity Committee – that their land, which is currently administered by the Tigray regional state, be moved into neighbouring Amhara region.
The Welkait committee says community members identify themselves as ethnic Amharas and say they no longer want to be ruled by Tigrayans.
Demonstrations began a fortnight ago but leaders of the Welkait community have been asking for the move for a year.
Amharas used to form the country’s elite and the language remains the most widely spoken in the country.
Is that the only issue?
Observers say that Ethiopia’s governing coalition is dominated by the party from the small Tigray region (TPLF), and some see the protests as a way of criticising the country’s government.
When Sunday’s demonstration was organised on social media, no mention was made of other issues, but during the protest banners could be seen expressing solidarity with people from the Oromia region.
Since November last year, the government has been dealing with a wave of protests in Oromia as people complain about alleged marginalisation. Those demonstrations began over a plan to expand the federal capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia. That plan has been dropped, but the issue highlighted grievances with the government which have not gone away.
The Oromos are Ethiopia’s most populous ethnic group.
People on Sunday were also calling for the release of a group of 18 Muslims who were imprisoned last year under controversial anti-terror legislation.
Ethiopia’s ethnic make-up
Oromo – 34.4%
Amhara – 27%
Somali – 6.2%
Tigray – 6.1%
Sidama – 4%
Gurage – 2.5%
Others – 19.8%
Source: CIA World Factbook estimates from 2007
Why are regional boundaries so important?
When the current government came to power in 1991 after overthrowing the military dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam it introduced a federal constitution aimed at decentralising power.
The regional states that were created were based on ethnicity and language.
That has meant that ethnic identity has come to the fore in disputes over where regional boundaries should lie. These tensions have been witnessed in other parts of the country, not only in Amhara and Oromia.
Is there a connection with other protests in the country?
There is no formal connection between the protesters in Amhara and those in Oromia, but it does appear to represent a growing boldness amongst some people to challenge the government.
Protesters mourningImage copyrightAFP
Image caption
Human Rights Watch estimated that more than 400 people died in the protests in Oromia
Ethiopia’s government has been criticised by rights groups for cracking down on protests and dissident voices and using anti-terror laws to silence people.
In Amhara, the demonstration two weeks ago was sparked by the imprisonment of members of the Welkait Amhara Identity Committee.
In the face of this apparent repression any anti-government demonstration can be seen as significant.
How serious is this for the government?
Two weeks ago, Ethiopia’s federal government accused neighbouring Eritrea of being behind the unrest and strongly warned the country to refrain from its “evil actions”.
But so far there has been no word from the authorities in Addis Ababa about Sunday’s protest.
They may prefer for this to be handled at a regional level, and the Amhara government has commented.
It said that the problems the protesters raised on Sunday were to do with good governance and it will try to address these.
This echoed the response of the Oromia regional government earlier this year when it said it would address the grievances of the people there.
For some observers, the Amhara protests appear to be part of a growing anti-government feeling, which the authorities are trying to contain.
But with no opposition parties represented in parliament, this feeling is manifested in sporadic bursts of activity rather than a concerted campaign.

2 Responses to Ethiopia protests: What’s behind the trouble in Gondar?

  1. Dear BBC journalist,

    Behind the trouble is essentially the arrogant and narcissistic intruding of the post cold war leaders of UK, USA and of some EU states. Organizations such as UN, WB and IMF are also part.

    These states and organizations procured, engineered and guided the ruthless TPLF down from its bush life. The end goal was to dismantle the ever sovereign nation and make it available to multinationals.

    After an extra ordinary long patience of a period of a quarter of a century, Ethiopians are saying stop! It is enough!

    Liberation of Ethiopia is ignited in Gonder, that of the whole world will be ignited once again in Ethiopia. The neo-colonial enthusiasm will be vanquished due to the just and sovereign courses of Ethiopians just the same as that of the slavery and colonial periods. We, Ethiopians (Christians + Muslims) are messengers of God or authentic human conscience!

    Dear journalist, by the way thank you for the interest to make such a piece because no media of our alien enemies has should such interest so far!

    rasdejen
    August 2, 2016 at 6:24 am

  2. The BBC journalist has glossed over a crucial issue. The Tigriyan rulers of Ethiopia are career mercenaries who have been groomed, armed, assisted diplomatically as well as militarily by hostile external forces including little England.

    These avowedly anti-Ethiopian entity whose leaders as well as the rank and file are largely unlettered, crude, uncultured hail from a tiny population group consisting of no more than 5% of Ethiopia’s population.

    They have dismantled Ethiopia’s national army and supplanted it with essentially Tigrean occupation forces. The TPLF is a mercenary outfit. No sooner than assuming power, it pleaded with the dysfunctional United Nations to formalise the secession of Eritrea from the mainland.

    Would it be conceivable for Irish Republican Army’s Jerry Adams to become the British premier if he had sanctioned Northern Ireland’s secession from Britain? I have no doubt that Adams would be lynched on the spot for the worst crime- the crime of treason. That is precisely what has transpired in Ethiopia.
    The TPLF dis not stop as that. It declared Amaras and the Ethiopian Orthodox church, to which the preponderant majority of Ethiopians belong its enemies.
    It compromised Ethiopian territorial integrity, sold our navy to Eritreans, sold massive Air Fore hardware and supplanted what was left of Ethiopian Air Force by semi-literate Tigreans who in 25 years could not produce a single fighter pilot. So they have employed the services of soldiers of fortune from Ukraine to man the Air Force which has effectively been moved from the centre of the country to Tigrai. The TPLF men have annexed vast swathes of land from different regions in a bid to expand Tigrean territory in the event they secede from Ethiopia.
    Every noteworthy institution in the country is headed by these reviled traitors. They have appropriated individual as well as state-owned lands across the nation, They have concocted fables to poison inter-ethnic harmony. Ethiopian in their long history have never taken the lives of their fellow men because of ethnic differences until these evil creatures defiled our mores, values and humanity. Tens of thousands of peasants whom TPLF perceives to be its potential rivals, had been massacred by men incited, armed and trained by this outfit.
    Well the day of reckoning will beckon sooner than later. This is the sentiment of Ethiopians who genuinely believe occupied by none other than an inferior breed of traitors. Please, convey this in your next installment if your BBc bosses allow you.

    Araya Negash
    August 3, 2016 at 1:09 am