On Sunday evening, the bars of Addis Ababa were doing their usual brisk business. Just 50 kilometers south of the Ethiopian capital, in the picturesque volcanic lake town of Bishoftu, more than 100 people lay dead.

By James Jeffrey (IRIN) |

About two million ethnic Oromo had turned up to celebrate a traditional cultural festival. But a deadly stampede ensued after police fired tear gas at protesters who were chanting anti-government slogans and throwing stones and bottles.

Ethiopia is going through its most widespread and sustained protests since the ruling Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front came to power in 1991. It’s testing the leadership’s grip, and its big idea of a “developmental state” – the implied bargain in which the government delivers economic growth, in exchange for acquiescence over its authoritarianism.

Although there has been significant economic growth over the past two decades, it has not kept pace with a “youth bulge”, rising unemployment and growing inequality. The bargain seems to be fraying in the face of increasingly obvious public corruption, disaffection with the suffocation of civil liberties, and localized misrule at the state level.

ALSO READ Will Ethiopia Protests Bring Any Change in the Country?

When Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa celebrated at the finish line in the Rio Olympics by crossing his forearms above his head, the symbol of the opposition movement, he drew attention to the months of government crackdowns on protest.

Since November 2015, that has cost upwards of 600 lives, according to human rights groups.

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