Oromo land protests rock Addis Ababa

Oromo people oppose government plan to expand Addis Ababa.

More than 50 people have allegedly been killed, hundreds injured and thousands detained over a month of land protests in the greater Addis Ababa area, according to activists protesting in Oromia, Ethiopia's largest state.

The demonstrations in Oromia, which surrounds the capital, are over the government's proposed masterplan to expand the jurisdiction of Addis Ababa, industrialising the region's farmland and evicting its farmers.

The protesters are from Ethiopia's largest ethnic group whose members comprise over a third of the country's population of 100 million. The plan has pitted the government's authoritarian economic growth model against traditional farming methods, and has seen clashes in at least 30 towns surrounding the capital.

oromia map

The protesters claim the plan will result in loss of autonomy for Oromo people living in the Addis Ababa area but the government says the proposed development is constitutional, would bring new industry and benefit all ethnic groups. The protesters claim to be mainly students and farmers, however the government has described them as "extremist Oromo groups" and "armed gangs."

The escalating protests escalate are costing the nation billions of birr each day in property damage and disrupted economic activity, and have resulted in the closure of many schools and businesses.

The local regional ruling party, the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organisation (OPDO), is allegedly coming under pressure from central government to quell the protests, according to local press. The leadership is said to be divided, with many of its members are reportedly sympathetic to the protesters.

Addis Ababa is undergoing a rapid rate of urban transformation, with planners estimating that its current 4.5 million population will double to 8.1 million by 2040, facilitating the development of an area 20 times the current boundaries of the capital.

The constitution declares that the “special interest” of Oromia in the capital should be respected, while its federalism system guarantees the rights of more than 80 ethnicities.

The protests come as Ethiopia battles with drought, food shortages and power cuts, despite having the fastest-growing economy in sub-Sahara this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).