Ethiopia: Gov't lifts ban on demonstrations in Addis

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

ADDIS ABABA, 15 July (IRIN) - Ethiopia has lifted a ban imposed on all demonstrations in the capital, Addis Ababa, in the afternath of the disputed 15 May polls, officials said on Friday.

"An extension of the ban is unnecessary because things are calming down," government spokesman, Zemedkun Teckle, said. However, he added, any group wanting to hold a demonstration should still apply to the authorities, otherwise it would be deemed illegal.

The leader of the main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy, Hailu Shawel said: "We have to tread very carefully at the moment, and think about what is our next step. At the moment we have no plans for any kind of demonstrations."

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi banned all public demonstrations in Addis Ababa for one month immediately after polls closed and put the security forces under his direct control. The ban was extended for another month on 13 June after violence erupted in the capital over alleged electoral fraud.

The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which pledged itself to democratic reform claimed victory in the elections, based on provisional results. However, complaints are being investigated in 200 of the 547 constituencies.

A final tally was expected on 8 July but results from only 307 seats were announced. The outcome for 524 parliamentary seats will be announced in the coming days, officials said. Elections for the remaining 23 seats in the lower house will take place in August.

Meanwhile, a human rights group said at least 40 people were killed and 74 wounded by gunshots during the unrest that followed the elections: 38 died during the clashes in the capital on June 8, while two members of opposition parties were killed in the provinces.

The executive secretary of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Adam Melaku, said the death toll might even be higher after demonstrators clashed with police last month.

"We believe there could be more casualties, but these were the only ones we could definitely confirm," he noted. "We believe 17 people are still missing although we don't know if they are dead or still being held."

Federal police were unavailable for comment on the rights group's claims. The authorities have clashed with the human rights body in the past, accusing them of bias.


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