At least five people died from bullet wounds amid clashes with Ethiopian security forces in the restive Oromia region since a state of emergency was declared two weeks ago, doctors said.
The state is struggling to reassert its authority in the Oromia and Amhara regions, where sporadic anti-government protests over the past two years left hundreds of people dead. The government’s failure to stem the unrest culminated in Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s resignation last month.
Doctors at hospitals in the Oromo towns of Nekemte, Gimbi, Ambo and Dambi Dolo said on Sunday they’ve handled 18 casualties with bullet wounds since the government suspended the constitution on Feb. 16. Ambo General Hospital documented two deaths on arrival and 13 casualties on Saturday, according to Garoma Shure, a doctor at the facility.
“Both died from bullet injuries to the chest amid clashes with security forces,” he said by phone.
Roads to Gimbi were blocked and hospitals couldn’t receive supplies, said Desalegn Abebe, a doctor at Gimbi General Hospital.
Desalegn Tadesse, medical director of Nekemte General Hospital, said his hospital received 20 casualties last week. Two of them died of bullet wounds, he said.
“Federal military soldiers are here in every street,” said Gamachu Worku of Dambi Dolo General Hospital, which documented one death by a gunshot to the head and six casualties with bullet wounds on Feb. 23.
Information Minister Negeri Lencho said he was out of the country on government business and referred queries to the defense ministry. Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa didn’t respond to three calls and three text messages. Addisu Arega, Oromia’s spokesman, confirmed in a Facebook post on Monday that “lives have been lost” and that market boycotts are ongoing.
“We have to discuss in a peaceful and democratic way about the complaints we have,” Addisu said.
The state of emergency forbids rallies and public meetings without permission, strikes and absence from work “without enough reason,” Fana Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing Siraj. The government also declared illegal any “intentional underperformance,” disruption of transport services, social-media posts and distribution of publications that could incite violence, according to the broadcaster funded by the ruling party.
Ethiopia, Africa’s fastest-growing economy over the past decade, is a key U.S. ally in its battle against al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa. Home to more than 100 million people, the $72 billion economy has drawn investors including General Electric Co., Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group and hundreds of Chinese companies.