Is the Egyptian regime involved in the Ethiopian protests?

An Ethiopian security official has accused the Egyptian regime of being involved in the two-day unrest that left more than 80 people dead following the assassination of singer and political activist Hachalu Hundessa. In the same context, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed alluded to Egypt’s involvement in these protests when he stated that the aim of the crime was to prevent the completion of the construction of the Renaissance Dam.

The spokesman for the Oromo region, from which the murdered artist and activist Hachalu Hundessa and the prime minister come, said the Egyptian regime is involved in the turmoil that erupted after the killing of an unknown Ethiopian singer in the capital, Addis Ababa. But the Egyptian regime did not immediately respond to any of the accusations levelled by prominent Ethiopian officials, nor did it comment on the indirect accusations by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

On his part, the Ethiopian Prime Minister condemned the assassination, which his government described as premeditated murder, and accused foreign and local parties (he did not mention which ones) of seeking to destabilise his country and prevent it from completing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

“At a time when the UN Security Council was meeting to discuss the Renaissance Dam crisis, the assassination took place,” Abiy Ahmed said in a televised speech. He added that this crime “involved foreign forces and was carried out by a local force, and the aim is to prevent us from completing the Renaissance Dam. What our enemies want and what they are planning will not be achieved.” He described what happened as an “evil act” committed and incited by enemies inside and outside so that they spoil our peace and prevent us from accomplishing the things (GERD) that we started. He also considered that what happened was a “tragedy” and he vowed to bring Hundessa’s killers to justice.

The Ethiopian police has previously said that they had arrested a number of suspects in the murder that took place on Monday evening, without giving any details. Hundessa was a prominent activist in the protests that paved the way for the current prime minister to take over at the head of a coalition of parties. His assassination took place under internal tension after the postponement of the general elections due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, and also in light of a confrontation between Ethiopia and Egypt over the GERD that amounted to the exchange of threats between the two countries.

Addis Ababa said a few days ago that it would start after two weeks to fill the dam reservoir despite the strong opposition from Egypt, which has involved the Security Council, in a move that Ethiopia said would complicate the issue. Immediately after Hundessa’s death, violence erupted at the start of three bombings in Addis Ababa, which resulted in the death of a policeman.

Subsequently, the unrest expanded to include other areas in the Oromo region, and the regional police commissioner confirmed to the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation today that 81 people at least, including three security personnel, were killed in the protests that took place in the region on Tuesday and Wednesday. A spokesman of the Oroma police said that 50 people were killed on Tuesday in the region, while a representative of the opposition Oromo Federal Congress Party said that nine others were killed today and their bodies were transferred to the main Ombo Hospital in Oromo.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister confirmed casualties, without specifying their number, and the death toll announced by the police does not include the bombings in Addis Ababa. In an attempt to contain the unrest, the Ethiopian authorities cut off the internet, while 35 people, including the well-known Oromo activist Gohar Mohamed, were arrested.

It is noteworthy that Oromo is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia with a population of close to 100 million, and has long complained that it is marginalised in politics until Abiy Ahmed came to power two years ago, ending decades of Tigray control.