The “Wolkait-Tegede issue” boiled over into violence two weeks ago when crowds came out in Gondar, Amhara region.

By Aaron Maasho (Reuters) |

Two protesters died in clashes with police in Ethiopia’s ancient city of Gondar on Friday, campaigners said, as anger mounted over the status of a disputed territory – a highly-charged issue in a nation made up of a patchwork of ethnic groups.

Violence broke out as police brought one of the leaders of a land campaign movement to court, according to one person who said he had been in the crowd and asked to remain anonymous.

Amhara region president Gedu Andargachew did not mention any deaths but told journalists the protests were illegal and said security services would take measures against anyone who took part.

Any sign of unrest is closely watched in Ethiopia, a major Western ally against Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia and an economic power seen as a center of relative stability in a fragile region.

“Two protesters were shot and killed in Piassa,” said one campaigner by phone, referring to a central district in the city.

Clashes carried on into the evening, said another, a rare public protest in a country whose government has been accused of cracking down on dissent. Roads were blocked and access to social media limited, he added.

Tensions have been rumbling for around 25 years over the status of Wolkayt district – a stretch of land that protesters from Amhara say was illegally incorporated into the neighboring Tigray region to the north.

The issue boiled over into violence two weeks ago when crowds came out in Gondar saying they were protesting against an attempt to arrest Wolkayt campaigners.

Government spokesman Getachew Reda said at the time six policemen were killed by the protesters and accused an “illegal committee” of stoking ethnic untest.

Continue reading this story on Reuters
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