In an interview with DW, a spokesman of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum, accused the government of abusing the country’s constitution with its plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa.
Violence and chaos gripped Ethiopia this week as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in protest against government plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa. Human Rights Watch said at least 75 people were killed in a bloody crackdown by heavily armed security forces. The demonstrations have spread to several towns since November, when students spoke out against plans to expand the capital into Oromia territory, a move the Oromo people consider a land grab. DW spoke to Merera Gundina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federal Congress, in Addis Ababa.
DW: What exactly are you demonstrating against?
Merera Gudina: The Addis Ababa Master Plan is part of a larger land grab by the Ethiopian government around Addis Ababa, which has displaced not less than 200,000 people. Secondly, under federalism all the boundaries are being eroded by the ruling party which is bent on taking the land. People are very angry with the government and people who wanted to see change are frustrated.
Under the Ethiopian constitution all land belongs to the state, with people living there legally considered tenants. Doesn’t this allow the government to carry out any developments that may serve the interests of all Ethiopians?
Merera Gudina: No, no, the government is misusing it. The constitution says the land belongs to the public so it doesn’t allow the government simply to tell the people “go away” and it takes the land. No, it says there are bonds of state in the name of the people and there are individuals owning the land. It is the ruling party that is misusing the constitution. In fact, the state itself is privatizing the country.
We understand you have vowed to continue the demonstrations despite the killings and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared on television that the government would act without mercy. Is it not better to solve these issues through talks?
Merera Gudina: We continue to support the cause of our people. We continue our peaceful struggle. We cannot be intimidated as the government has done. We have popular support, we have millions of people behind us. The government cannot silence us easily. We are following the constitution but we are against the arbitrary misuse of the constitution by the ruling party. Our people will continue.
Is it true that your organization is getting support from outsiders?
Merera Gudina: The diaspora is far away. It’s school kids, high schools and universities and the government is simply accusing the left and the right. Probably the diaspora is very active in the media because the local media are totally controlled by the government. We have no access to the media and the diaspora have some media outlets and they report what is happening in the country. But a diaspora of a few thousand cannot move millions of people.
You can get all news about the ongoing protest in Ethiopia (the so called “Oromo Protests” here):
- Ethiopia: Lethal Force Against Protesters
- At Least 75 Killed in Ethiopia Protests: HRW
- US Concerned about Protester Deaths in Ethiopia
- What Is Behind the Oromo Rebellion in Ethiopia?
- Several Killed in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region Protests
- Explosion at the Anwar Mosque in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- Ethiopia Growth Clashes With Politics as Oromo Protests Rise
- Ethiopian Opposition Say 10 Oromo Students Killed at Protests
- ‘Unprecedented’ Protests in Ethiopia Against Capital Expansion Plan
- Egypt Wishes Ethiopia Stability, Continuing Development amid Unrest
- Saskatoon’s Ethiopian Community Protests Government in Home Country
- Calgary Ethiopian Community Calling for Action in Oromia Student Deaths
- Five Dead in Ethiopia Protests Sparked by Land Grab Fears in Oromia Region
- Oromo Community in South Dakota Protest U.S. Aid to Ethiopian Government
- Why Are Students in Ethiopia Protesting against a Capital City Expansion Plan?
- Ethiopia Security Forces Kill up to 50 People in Crackdown on Peaceful Protests
- Protesters in Ethiopia Destroy 50 Tons of Potatoes at Dutch Agricultural Companies
- Dispatches: Yet Again, a Bloody Crackdown on Protesters in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region
- Ethiopia: Anti-terror Rhetoric Will Escalate Brutal Crackdown against Oromo Protesters
- Ethiopia: Oromo Community Protests in London over ‘Forced Eviction and Ethnic Cleansing’
- Tensions Rise as Student Protests against the New Master Plan of Addis Ababa Widespread in Ethiopia