By Ludovica Iaccino
The Ethiopian government has announced its plan to expand the capital Addis Ababa following deadly protests that resulted in dozens of deaths. The Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organisation (OPDO) central committee said it came to the conclusion following three days of talks.
“The committee lauds questions raised by the public on the integrated development master plan. According to the committee any issue on which common consensus is not reached with the public will not be implemented, and hence the committee passed the decision to totally stop the plan,” the statement read, according to the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).
Activists and human rights groups have warned that between 140 and 160 people have been killed by security forces after people in Oromia state took to the streets in November to vent their outrage against the so-called Addis Ababa Master plan.
Members of the Oromo community – Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group – alleged the plan will lead to forced evictions of Oromo farmers who will lose their lands and become impoverished as a result.
Demonstrators also argued that forced evictions as well as a perceived marginalisation by the government was already occurring and threatened survival of their culture and language.
Before OPDO’s announcement, Etan Habte, author and PhD candidate at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, told IBTimes UK protesters intended to continue their rallies in spite of the deaths.
Abiy Berhane, minister counsellor at the Embassy of Ethiopia in London, confirmed to IBTimes UK that an investigation had been launched to establish the exact death toll of people who “fell victim to the violent confrontation with security forces as well as the extent of property damage”.
Regarding the allegations of violence against demonstrators and civilians including pregnant women, he said: “These are just one of the many fabrications that are being circulated by certain opposition groups as part of their propaganda campaign. The unrest cannot be described as a national crisis.
“The disturbances orchestrated by opposition groups have now subsided as the general public understood that the integrated master plan is still at a draft stage and will only be implemented after extensive public consultation in the matter takes place and gains the support of the people.”