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Oromo protesters do not trust a statement by the Ethiopian government claiming it will scrap its plan to expand the capital Addis Ababa, a demonstrator told IBTimes UK. The source, who lives in Oromia – Ethiopia's largest state – said on condition of anonymity that protests against the expansion plan will continue in spite of the statement released by the Oromo Peoples' Democratic Organisation (OPDO) on 13 January.
Although OPDO is the party administering Oromia, the source explained it is not regarded as representative of the Oromo people, Ethiopia's largest group. "The statement isn't taken seriously among the Oromo people because the party has historically been used by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) as an instrument to crackdown on all Oromo legitimate concerns," he alleged.
The source added that the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), created in 1973, is regarded as the organisation representing the Oromo people and their interests. "OPDO is perceived as a mere administrative representative of TPLF in Oromia region, but not the political representative of Oromo people," he said.
"OLF has massive support, Oromo demonstrators both back home and in the diaspora chant OLF's slogans and they always say they are our true representatives. The expansion plan issue is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Oromo grievances are concerned in the Ethiopian state."
Oromo people have been protesting since last November against the so-called "Addis Ababa master plan" as they believe it will lead to forced evictions of Oromo farmers who will lose their lands and become impoverished as a result.
Demonstrators also argued that forced evictions as well as a perceived marginalisation by the government are already occurring and they threaten the survival of their culture and language.
Activists and rights groups have warned at least 140 people have been killed by the army and security forces in recent protests, with the OLF accusing the Ethiopian regime of renewing "a second round of war" against the Oromo in December 2015.
IBTimes UK has contacted the Ethiopian embassy in London for a statement, but has not received a response at the time of publishing. In a previous interview, Abiy Berhane, minister counsellor at the embassy, confirmed to IBTimes UK that an investigation had been launched to establish the exact death toll of people who "fell victim to the violent confrontation with security forces as well as the extent of property damage".
Regarding the allegations of violence against demonstrators and civilians, he said: "These are just one of the many fabrications that are being circulated by certain opposition groups as part of their propaganda campaign. The unrest cannot be described as a national crisis.
"The disturbances orchestrated by opposition groups have now subsided as the general public understood that the integrated master plan is still at a draft stage and will only be implemented after extensive public consultation in the matter takes place and gains the support of the people."