Ethiopia abandons development plan for capital after unrest

Ethiopia said it will abandon a development plan for the capital, Addis Ababa, and surrounding areas of Oromia state after almost two months of protests.

Opposition by the ethnic Oromo party in the Horn of Africa nation’s ruling coalition means the end of the integrated master plan, Communications Minister Getachew Reda said. The Oromo People’s Democratic Organization occupies all the seats in the legislature for the Oromia government, which worked on the plan with Addis Ababa’s administration.

“If one of the parties to this arrangement withdraws its support, this simply mean the project cannot go ahead,” Getachew said Wednesday by phone from the capital.

Continuing demonstrations partly over the plan’s impact on Oromo farmers have led up to 140 people being killed by security forces in the past eight weeks, New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Jan. 7. Getachew said last week there’d been a “really significant” number of fatalities, including among the security forces, without giving a figure.

The Oromo people comprise about a third of Ethiopia’s 99.5 million population, according to the CIA World Factbook. Recent “generally peaceful protests” were fueled by fears the expansion would force Oromo farmers from their land, Human Rights Watch said.

Getachew said the government will continue to promote the development of Addis Ababa and surrounding Oromia towns even after the end of the integrated plan.

“The development of Addis was never an issue, the development of Oromia regional state was never an issue,” he said. “It was a coordination of efforts between Addis Ababa and Oromia that was at stake.”