Burayu, close to Addis Ababa, is in virtual lockdown after a call for a general strike against the government’s stance on Oromo demands
By Karim Lebhour |
BURAYU, Ethiopia (AFP)―As Ethiopians ready to celebrate their New Year and the Muslim feast of Sacrifice, shops in the town of Burayu are shuttered and streets strangely empty amid fresh anti-government protests.
With New Year festivities set for Sunday and Eid parties scheduled the following day, in any other year Burayu’s sheep and cattle market would have been at its busiest this weekend.
But after months of on-off trouble in the central Oromo region — home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group — this small town close to the capital, Addis Ababa, is in virtual lockdown after a call for a general strike against the government’s stance on Oromo demands.
“I’ve never seen the city like this,” said a grocer manning one of the few market stalls still open.
“The police came and said we have no right to close our shops and if we close, they’ll close us for good.”
But despite incessant police patrols up and down the streets, most of the shops have remained shuttered.
“The whole Oromo region is ruled by the military,” said 26-year-old Abdisa, who vows while chatting with a couple of friends that his family’s small cafe will stay shut until the New Year, as agreed by the shopkeepers.
“This boycott is a way of showing our disagreement with the government,” adds Abdisa, who gave no family name.
The lockdown, he says, is a sign of respect for those killed in the Oromo region since November, which rights groups say number in the hundreds.
With security forces readily using live bullets against demonstrators, there have been fewer protests in recent days.
People choice is my choice
“We don’t want to celebrate the New Year with joy … They’re killing people with guns. We need the killings to stop,” said Falmata, a young university graduate unable to find a job.
And when talk focuses on Ethiopia’s last elections in May 2015, when the ruling EPRDF coalition — in power for a quarter of a century — won every parliamentary seat, Falmata’s anger boils over. “This result is totally false,” he says.
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