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Ethiopia imposes state of emergency to end riots

This October 2, 2016 photo shows residents of the Ethiopian town of Bishoftu crossing their wrists above their heads as a symbol of the Oromo anti-government protest movement during the Oromo new year holiday Irreechaa. (AFP photo)

The Ethiopian government has declared a nationwide state of emergency following days of riots and protests that have gripped the country.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared Sunday that the state of emergency was effective immediately following a week of violence which, he said, “put the integrity of the nation at risk.”

The premier, who was addressing the nation via state TV, said the measure was needed because there has been “enormous” damage to property.

“We put our citizens' safety first. Besides, we want to put an end to the damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, education institutions, health centers, administration and justice buildings,” Desalegn said.  

The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said details of the state of emergency will be declared later on Sunday.

Riots erupted in the restive Oromo region on October 2 when police fired tear gas and bullets to disperse protesters at the annual Irreecha thanksgiving celebration in the town of Bishoftu. Police action led to a stampede which triggered days of protest and violent clashes across the country.

Demonstrations continued on Sunday with reports suggesting that roads into and out of the capital, Addis Ababa, were blocked by protesters. Witnesses said the people targeted with rocks anyone who tried to drive into the city.

Reports say the government has barred Internet access across many parts of Ethiopia to prevent campaigns on social media calling on people to attend demonstrations.

Desalegn denied the state of emergency was in violation of Ethiopians’ rights, while ensuring diplomats in the country there would be nothing to worry about.

“The state of emergency will not breach basic human rights enshrined under the Ethiopian constitution and won't also affect diplomatic rights listed under the Vienna Convention,” said Desalegn.

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