Renewed protests indicate need for probe in Ethiopian stampede - AI

Addis Ababa - Rights group, Amnesty International, has called for a probe into a deadly stampede that occurred in Ethiopia last weekend. 

At least 52 people were crushed to death during an anti-government protest at a massive religious festival.

The country's Oromo community had gathered on October 2 in the town of Bishoftu near the capital Addis Ababa to their Irreecha )thanksgiving) ceremony to mark the end of the rainy season.

Fresh protests, however, erupted a day after the deadly stampede. 

Amnesty International said that the renewed protests underlined the need to probe the stampede. 

"We have documented multiple complaints of police using excessive force, including lethal force, against largely peaceful protesters since demonstrations began in the Oromia region in November last year," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

Contradictory accounts 

She urged government to intervene in the "unlawful use of force" during protests, while making an impassioned plea for an investigation into the stampede to be conducted as soon as possible.

While the government of Ethiopia has maintained that the official death toll sits at 52, protest groups have lashed out at the figure, expressing their suspicions that the number of deaths might be much higher.

"Given the contradictory accounts, it is critical that an investigation be held to unearth the truth and to identify law enforcement officers criminally responsible, and hold them to account in open and fair trials,” said Kagari.

"In the meantime, the authorities must exercise restraint to prevent further bloodshed."

At least 97 people were reported to have been killed in August when Ethiopian security opened fire on a group of peaceful protesters across the Oromia region and in parts of Amhara, Amnesty reported previously.

Thousands of protesters had shown up to call for political reform and justice when officials began firing live ammunition at the crowd, wounding scores and arresting hundreds more.

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