Ethiopia will maintain its state of emergency for an additional four months, following a parliamentary vote Thursday that approved the extension.
The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) said the measure passed unanimously after Ethiopian Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa made his case for additional time before lawmakers still concerned about unrest in the Oromia region.
The minister said the government’s security situation has improved during the six months of the emergency state, but that problems continue in some parts of the country. It is still not possible to establish peace and security without the stricter limits on freedoms and additional government powers, he said.
The state of emergency was implemented in October after scores of deaths occurred at the annual Irreecha festival in Bishoftu.
The Irreecha incident was preceded by a year in which at least 500 people had died in violent clashes with security forces. The decades of tension escalated between ethnic Oromo, and the majority Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) members of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition in power, over proposed land seizures and annexation near Addis Ababa.
Some provisions of the emergency measures were eased on March 15, but Oromo advocates – keenly aware of the arrests of Oromo leaders like Merera Gudina, the repression of journalists, surveillance society and other policies – denounced the move and said the damage has already been done.
“Ethiopia has now completed its transition from an authoritarian police state to a military dictatorship,” wrote the editor of an op-ed in OPride. “The state of emergency formally started this process.”