Members of the Oromo community have been protesting over a plan to expand Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, claiming that it is threatening their survival. IBTimes UK spoke with author and PhD candidate at London's Soas University, Etana Habte, on how the so-called "master plan" is affecting Oromos – Ethiopia's largest ethnic group – amid reports of violence against demonstrators.
Habte explained that Oromo protesters are calling for the recognition of their right to self-determination. He also warned that around 100 protesters have been killed by security forces since demonstrations started earlier in November.
According to Habte and other activists, the government is trying to label the demonstrations as ethnically motivated to justify its intervention. Habte urged the international community to pay closer attention to the ongoing protests.
The Ethiopian government said only five people were killed and denied Oromos are being evicted.
Authorities also said the Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan aims to ensure development continues in the areas surrounding the capital.
Abiy Berhane, minister counsellor at the Embassy of Ethiopia in London, alleged that protests are just a pretext for people to create instability.
He told IBTimes UK: "The violence in some parts of Oromia region is instigated by foreign-based opposition groups who are determined to overthrow the constitutional order in Ethiopia by the use of force.
"They are using the Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan as a pretext to advance their agenda of inciting violence aimed at creating chaos and instability in the country."
Berhane also said Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was misquoted during a statement he delievered on state television on 16 December, claiming that a violent mindset was behind the protest. Berhane said: "Desalegn never used the word 'merciless' in his statement. He said 'The government has the resolve to take measures to prevent the killing of innocent people and the destruction of property.'
"Amnesty International statement seems to be based on one-sided accounts from the opposition," Berhane concluded.
What is the right to self-determination?
This right is a core principle of international law and is enshrined in many documents issued by the United Nations (UN).
The UN's Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, issued in 1960, states that: "All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
This right is also contained in the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Both documents state: "The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realisation of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations."