US embassy acknowledges anger of Oromo people as anti-government protests continue

In Focus: Addis Ababa master plan threatens Oromos self-determinationIBTimes UK

The US Embassy in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa has acknowledged the frustration of people in Oromia state, which has been rocked by anti-government protests for months. Ethiopians have been calling on the international community to be more vocal about the unrest taking place in the area.

Earlier in October, at least 55 people were killed in a deadly stampede which happened during a protest held at a religious festival in Oromia.

Activists claimed the stampede took place after security forces opened fire on protesters. They also claimed the death toll was much higher. However, the government blamed the violence on "anti-peace forces".

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Addressing the residents of Oromia, the US embassy wrote on its Facebook page on Thursday (6 October): "We have been closely following your comments and reactions over the past few days and we recognise both your anger and frustration.

"At the same time, it means a lot to us that you see this page as a place where you can express yourselves freely and recognise that much of the frustration we see comes from the high expectations you hold for the United States."

The statement came one day after a US citizen died after suffering injuries after "unknown individuals" threw rocks at her vehicle. Sharon Gray was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California's plant biology department. She was driving in the outskirts of Addis Ababa when the vehicle was attacked.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government claimed on 6 October that protesters had burned down buildings and factories belonging to at least 10 foreign-owned companies in Oromia, the BBC reported.

Anti-government protests in Oromia

Demonstrators first took to the streets of Oromia in November 2015 to voice their dissent against a government draft plan that aimed to expand the boundaries of the capital Addis Ababa.

They argued the so-called 'Addis Ababa master plan' would lead to the forced evictions of Oromo farmers and would undermine the survival of the Oromo culture and language.

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The Ethiopian government scrapped the master plan, following increasing agitation that activists claimed led to the death of at least 400 people, a figure the government has rejected.

Protests are continuing, with people calling for self-rule, the liberation of political prisoners and the end of what they perceive to be a military regime in the region.

This includes the cessation of an alleged crackdown by security forces on "peaceful and unarmed" demonstrators, mainly students and farmers.

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