By Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane
Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said, security forces have “overreacted” and needlessly beaten people, used tear gas, plastic and lethal bullets, and other excessive measures including on older persons and children resulting in at least one death, several bodily injuries and distress on people gathered around Menelik Square for the 127th year celebrations of the victory of Adwa on Thursday.
EHRC’s statement said, a traditional, popular and peaceful gathering of people around Menelik Square and a religious congregation in nearby Saint George Church was violently disrupted by the unnecessary and excessive actions of the security forces.
The Addis Abeba Diocese of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) also disclosed that many faithfuls were injured and spiritual ceremony was discontinued due to a tear gas thrown at the church following a measure taken by government forces to disperse a crowd during the celebration at the city’s Menilik II Square held yesterday.
A report by Addis Abeba Diocese, said that the Holy Arks were in place at the ceremony while the government security forces fired tear gas into the church and the Holy Arks had to return to their respective seats without completing the ceremony.
The Diocese additionally said it has received information from the scene, indicating many worshipers were injured and passed out by the tear gas that was thrown from both entrance doors of the church.
Similarly, the opposition National Movement of Amhara in a statement condemned the incident which it said killed one of its members, expressing it as “obstruction created by the government unlawfully preventing people from celebrating the Adwa Victory Day, the way they preferred.”
According to NAMA, the government’s security forces went beyond using completely unnecessary measures against the citizens found in every square and threw smoke bombs in the church and caused damage upon the devotees and priests who were attending the ceremony.
The party disclosed that its member named Million (Mekwanent) Wodajo, who was a physics teacher at Menelik II Preparatory School was shot dead by government security forces. NAMA further called for accountability measures and a public apology with an assurance that the incident will not be repeated.
EHRC in its statement said, “implicated law enforcement officials must be subject to accountability and law enforcement officers should be adequately trained to avoid similar incidents”.
The commission further underlined that in carrying out their duties, law enforcement officials shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent methods before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Force and firearms may only be used if other means of achieving a legitimate law enforcement objective are ineffective or unlikely to be successful.
The FDRE Government Communication Service, however, released a statement yesterday indicating that security forces already had information about the existence of elements who want to prevent such national events from happening. The statement further, without disclosing the identities of the bodies, said that particularly, those who wanted to disrupt the festival in Menilk Square tried to incite violence, but when they failed to disrupt the festival in the square, they tried to disrupt the religious festival in St. George’s Church.
The statement added that security forces have taken due care and protection with efforts to calm down the rioters, to prevent the disruption of the religious festival in the church and protect devotees, yet some of them were injured. Further to this the statement stated that the government will investigate the situation and take appropriate action against the troublemakers.
For further comments Addis Standard reached out to the Addis Abeba Police Public Relations incoming Director, Deputy Commander Markos Tadesse, who only said the matter is being evaluated by the joint security and intelligence task force and a statement is expected afterwards.
Whereas the Federal Police PR Head Jaylan Abdi only referred Addis Standard to another committee by the Ministry of Defense to communicate on the matter. AS