Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | AFP |
Ethiopia said Monday that “foreign enemies” like Egypt were behind an unprecedented wave of protests that has prompted the government to declare a six-month state of emergency.
Ethiopia’s government is facing the biggest challenge of its 25 years in power, with anti-government protests spreading, foreign owned companies targeted and a harsh security crackdown that has killed hundreds so far failing to quell the unrest.
“The kind of threats we are facing, the kind of attacks that are now targeting civilians, targeting civilian infrastructures, targeting investment cannot be handled through ordinary law enforcement procedures,” said communication minister Getachew Reda.
Protesters from the majority Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups say they are marginalised by the minority Tigrayan-led government which they accuse of monopolising power and controlling the economy.
But Getachew said traditional enemy Egypt had allegedly trained and financed the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), regarded by Ethiopia as a terrorist group behind the protests.
“We know for a fact that the terrorist group OLF has been receiving all kinds of support from Egypt,” said Getachew.
“Its leaders used to be in Asmara (Eritrea) now they are in Cairo.”
He said “elements in the Egyptian political establishment” were fomenting rebellion, seeking to promote “historical rights” over access to the River Nile.
Ethiopia is building a hydropower dam on the Nile close to its source in the Ethiopian highlands, raising fears in Egypt which depends on controlling the flow of the Nile’s waters for its survival.
Last week Ethiopia’s foreign ministry summoned Egypt’s ambassador to discuss “the current situation”, according to Ethiopian state media.
“The government has every responsibility to restore order,” Getachew said, a day after the government announced the state of emergency.
Getachew said the “extraordinary situation” demanded the state of emergency but insisted it did not amount to a “blanket ban on civilian life”.
He raised the possibility of concessions to protesters such as a government reshuffle and a “broadening of political space”.