Ethiopia blames Egypt for supporting outlawed, armed group

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Ethiopia’s government on Monday blamed Egypt for supporting outlawed rebels and forcing the declaration of a state of emergency.

There is “ample evidence” that Egypt provided training and financing to the Oromo Liberation Front, labeled a terrorist organization by Ethiopia, government spokesman Getachew Reda told journalists in the capital, Addis Ababa. “We know for a fact that the terrorist group OLF is receiving all kinds of support from Egypt.”

Egypt last week denied any support for the Ethiopian rebels.

The state of emergency declared Sunday will be used to reorganize the security forces to better respond to widespread anti-government protests throughout much of the restive Oromia region, Getachew said.

At least 400 people have been killed in anti-government protests in the past year, human rights groups and opposition activists have said. The protesters have been demanding wider freedoms.

On Oct. 2, more than 50 people were killed in a stampede after security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters during a religious festival in Bishoftu, southeast of the capital. The incident sparked more violence in Oromia, where hundreds of local and foreign businesses have been attacked over suspected government ties and more people have been killed, according to both the government and opposition.

The state of emergency will not mean a total ban on civilian rights and there will not be a blanket curfew across the country, Getachew said. “This is not an attempt by the military to take over,” he added.

The government has said the state of emergency may include a curfew in some locations, arrests and search-and-seizures without a court order, restrictions on the right to assembly and a ban on some communications.

An internet blackout that has been in place for the past five days was lifted Monday.

An informal state of emergency has been in place in Ethiopia for some time during which people have been arbitrarily arrested and even killed, Mulatu Gemechu of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress party told The Associated Press.

“Declaring a state of emergency at this time in Ethiopia is aimed at legitimizing the killings that we have seen in the Oromia region recently,” Mulatu said. “It won’t solve the public’s problems and will only worsen it. What people are looking for is a radical change. The people now want the setting up of a transitional or caretaker government.”

Ethiopian lawmakers are expected to convene later Monday after a two-month recess, and a Cabinet reshuffle is expected in the next two to three weeks, said government spokesman Getachew.

In Berlin, German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said that “as things stand, no changes are being made” to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plans to visit Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

Merkel is due to meet Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, and she will discuss the current political situation and “of course clearly address human rights,” said Demmer.

“She will of course express her conviction that a policy that takes account of the interests of all parts of the population, a democratic state of law, offers the best development opportunities,” Demmer said.

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