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Ethiopia accuses rights body of fueling violence

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

October 26, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian government has accused Human Rights Watch (HRW) of encouraging opposition violence in the horn of Africa’s nation through false reportage.

logo-hrw-2.jpgIn an official respons to the US-based rights body’s recent reports, Ethiopia’s foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom, said HRW repeatedly released “unfounded” and “fabricated” reports through its researcher “to incite more violence”.

Tedros said HRW’s Felix Horne was stoking anti-government protests through what he described as “false and negative reportage of the situation in the country”

“Mr. Horne’s technique is clear. He carefully chooses words calculated to mislead”, said Tedros.

The Ethiopian official further accused Horne of writing articles on the Ethiopia protests, without having the requisite information and giving interviews to the media.

Tedros also accused the HRW researcher of addressing the European Parliament’s sub-committee on Human Rights with “inadequate” information.

‘‘In all of these, in order to support his demands, he has deliberately given impressions and made claims he knows to be false about recent events, notably the Ireecha tragedy on October 2,” the official stressed.

During his briefing to the EU Parliament sub-committee, Horne said a “an unknown number of people, possibly hundreds, died during a stampede after security forces used teargas and gunfire to control a tense crowd at the annual Ireecha festival”.

The Ethiopian government has admitted that only 55 died during the religious festival.

International right groups, including HRW, said the latest protests have claimed lives of up to 500 protesters within the Oromia region.

The Ethiopian minister said suggestions alleging hundreds killed originally came from members of opposition groups in the Diaspora, who he said, also claimed that hundreds were shot by helicopter gunships.

‘‘This was a palpable invention, but Human Rights Watch was quick to claim: “an unknown number of people, possibly hundreds, died during a stampede after security forces used teargas and gunfire”

He further accused the rights body of ‘‘making considerable efforts to push the European Union to use its role as Ethiopia’s main development cooperation partner to force Ethiopia to accept an international investigation”

The Ethiopian minister also slammed Human Rights Watch’s reports as fabricated citing to the group’s failure to disclose their sources of their information.

He said the HRW has irresponsibly continued to peddle false information despite proof to the contrary.

Ethiopian authorities have previously reacted fiercely to HRW and other group’s “false” reports that allege that Ethiopian security forces have fired live ammunition at protesters during the Ireecha festival.

Tedros reaffirmed that cause of the deaths were a result of tragic drowning and crushing of persons during the stampede.

“There is, in fact, no evidence (though there are a multitude of allegations made over social media) of any more deaths than the official figures of 55 who died, all from being tragically drowned or crushed in the stampede” He said.

“None of those who died were killed by gunshots, despite Mr. Horne’s claims, as has been confirmed by reports from the hospitals in Bishoftu” he added.

Since November last year Ethiopia has been a scene of series of protests in Oromia and Amhara regions.

The Oromos initially staged demonstrations in late 2015 in protest to government plans to expand the capital’s territory to parts of the Oromia region.

However, the Oromos are now demanding for wider political and economic rights or regime change.

Effective October 8, the Government of Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency in the face of unprecedented anti-government protests. Authorities have admitted that over 2,500 people have so far detained under the state of emergency