At least six people have reportedly lost their lives and dozens of others been detained in anti-government protests in Ethiopia.
The fatalities were announced by locals, who said they occurred during two days of rallies on Friday and Saturday as hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Ethiopia’s northern region of Gondar, located 700 kilometers north of the capital, Addis Ababa.
Authorities in Ethiopia have yet to confirm the death toll.
Sources said some 500 people also gathered on the capital’s main square despite heavy police presence, expressing their anger with what they said was an unfair distribution of wealth in the East African country.
“We want our freedom,” and “Free our political prisoners,” the protesters shouted.
The rallies were reportedly called by opposition groups from the main Ethiopian ethnic group, namely the Oromo people.
“This is a mass movement of civil disobedience, which is not organized by political parties,” said Merera Gudina, the chairman of the Oromo People’s Congress, a political party representing the Oromo people.
“People are totally fed up with this regime and expressing their anger everywhere,” he added.
Ethiopia’s prime minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn, had already announced a ban on demonstrations, saying the move would threaten national unity, and calling on police to use all means at their disposal to prevent them.
At least a dozen people had been killed in recent weeks during clashes with police over territorial disputes regarding the expansion of the municipal boundaries of Addis Ababa into Oromia, the region where the Oromo people are concentrated.
The move could result in farmers from the Oromo ethnic group being displaced and losing their land and property.
The Ethiopian government was forced to revoke the expansion project in January but sporadic protests have continued in the region.