The state of emergency declaration follows demonstrations against the authorities that have led to deaths and property damage across the country.

Bill Chappell (NPR) |

A week after a deadly stampede brought anti-government protests and violence to a fever pitch, Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency Sunday. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn says the declaration is necessary for the government to protect both property and citizens’ lives.

The stampede struck at a religious festival that also had qualities of a demonstration that was held last Sunday, Oct. 2, in the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa. That’s where many in a massive crowd that had gathered to celebrate the annual Irreecha thanksgiving festival chanted slogans and crossed their fists over their heads, an increasingly familiar gesture that protests oppression and calls for more rights for the people of Oromia.

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Video recordings from that day show that the crowd had been pressing toward an open-air stage when security forces opened fire and deployed tear gas, triggering a panic. Many people initially ran to a nearby treeline for cover, only to become trapped in a deep and steep-sided trench. Others were hemmed in by a nearby lake.

“The government says 55 people were killed — some fell into nearby gullies and drowned,” NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports. “The opposition says many, many more people lost their lives.”

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