Ethiopia ends state of emergency

Ethiopian security forces used teargas to respond to protesters throwing bottles and stones. The state of emergency, which was marked by greater police powers and heightened restrictions, has lasted for ten months. PHOTO | BBC 

Ethiopia on Friday lifted the nationwide state of emergency it had declared last year following violent protests.

Siraj Fegessa, the Defence minister, told an emergency meeting of Council of Ministers in Addis Abba that the situation has improved and could now be handled by local security.

The state of emergency, which was marked by greater police powers and heightened restrictions, has lasted for ten months.

More than 7,700 individuals are in custody in connection with the protests, of which 4,136 are from the Oromia region.

Ethiopia imposed the state of emergency on October 9, 2016 following anti-government protests which began in the central Oromo region before spreading to Amhara in the north.

The spark for the protests was a 2015 government proposal to expand the limits of the rapidly-growing capital Addis Ababa into the surrounding Oromia region, home to the country's largest ethnic group the Oromos, who feared the expansion could rob them of their land.

The northern Amhara people subsequently joined the protests.

Since November 2015, demonstrations, sometimes violently suppressed, have led to 940 deaths and 21,000 arrests, according to government figures.

The emergency decree contained provisions banning gatherings and allowing police to hold people without trial.

The government says more than 3,000 people are facing various security crimes charges in court while another 700 are under probe for possession of weapons.

More than 10,000 people have been released, the government says, after being sensitised on the constitution and the rule of law.

The state of emergency was initially set to last six months, but the government sought parliament's approval to extend it by three months.

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