Ethiopia blames riots on Egypt, "foreign forces"

Ethiopia on Monday accused "foreign forces" of fomenting protests in its restive Oromia region and slammed Egypt for allegedly backing an outlawed group there, following the declaration of a state of emergency at the weekend.

The unrest comes ahead of a scheduled visit to the country by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday.

"What we have now is the involvement of armed gangs which are being armed, trained and financed by foreign forces," government spokesman Getachew Reda told reporters.

"Countries that seem to think that the destruction of Ethiopia is in their best interest are lining up behind these destructive elements."

The spokesman said there was "ample evidence" that Egypt was training and financing the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front, which Ethiopia regards as a terrorist group.

Egypt's ambassador to Ethiopia earlier met with Ethiopian officials. The Foreign Ministry in Cairo released a statement Sunday saying the envoy had assured them that Egypt does not intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, the Daily News Egypt newspaper reported.

Ethiopia and Egypt have long been at odds over sharing Nile waters.

Ethiopia has also blamed the riots on Eritrea, which has a long-running border dispute with Addis Ababa.

Reda said the state of emergency would not entail an absolute ban on civilian rights and activities, and that there will not be a blanket curfew across the country.

"This is not an attempt by the military to take over," he said.

Oromia, which is populated by the country's largest Oromo ethnic group and includes Addis Ababa, has seen repeated flare-ups of anti-government protests in recent months.

The latest wave of rioting followed the deaths of more than 50 people in a stampede sparked by police attempts to disperse protesters at an Oromo religious festival near the capital eight days ago.

Government officials say factories, company premises and vehicles were either gutted or damaged.

The Oromo rallies were initially held to protest plans to extend the boundary of Addis Ababa amid concerns that it could lead to farmers being displaced. Those protests led to security forces killing more than 400 people, according to Human Rights Watch.

The boundary plan was abandoned, but resentment is still festering among the Oromo community, which feels excluded from political and economic power.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for the respect of "fundamental human rights" in Ethiopia, saying in a statement that "the suspension of political and democratic rights should be avoided."

Last update: Mon, 10/10/2016 - 15:44

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