Ethiopian capital mayor warns against unrest as prominent rebel leader set to return from exile

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-14 22:08:16|Editor: xuxin
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ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua)--Mayor of Ethiopia's capital city Addis Ababa, Takele Uma on Friday warned the government will take legal measures against "conspirators" as tensions rise in the city.

A large delegation led by Dawud Ibsa, leader of the previously banned rebel group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), is expected to arrive in Addis Ababa on Saturday to the cheers of thousands of supporters.

However, the expected arrival of Ibsa and other OLF leaders has raised tension in the city, as some residents of Addis Ababa clashed on Wednesday and Thursday with supporters of OLF, who mostly came from ethnic Oromo villages surrounding Addis Ababa and beyond.

The clashes involving sticks and stones, left several people injured and unspecified property damage.

OLF supporters entered the city with OLF flags, which is seen by non-Oromos as a flag that symbolizes a desire to split Ethiopia's largest region Oromia from the rest of Ethiopia.

Many ethnic Oromos, who make up about a third of Ethiopia's estimated 100 million people, see OLF and the flag as resistance against decades of discriminatory practices of non-Oromo elites based in Addis Ababa.

In a press statement, Uma said the Addis Ababa city administration is making preparations to host the arrival of Ibsa, but warned that "unspecified" forces are plotting to disrupt the homecoming event for the OLF leader and the city administration is ready to take legal action against these forces.

Speaking to media outlets on Thursday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, called for calm as clashes over the hosting of OLF flag, left the normally politically calm city shaken. Ahmed urged Ethiopians to tolerate each other's freedom of expression including flag of their own liking.

Ahmed warned that unspecified "forces" want to incite violence under the guise of the flag controversy.

The government will not tolerate such provocations, the prime minister said, urging people to refrain from acts that can incite violence.

Also on Thursday, Ethiopia Federal Police Commissioner Zeynu Jemal, called on citizens to respect each other's freedom of expression, including holding and waving flags of their own choice.

However, Jemal warned, police would not tolerate acts of vandalism such as graffiti-painting over public spaces. He urged all involved to refrain from such illegal acts.

Once designated as a terror group, the OLF was delisted in June as part of political reforms undertaken by the Ahmed administration, which assumed office in April.

The tensions in Addis Ababa also has another layer of controversy as the multiethnic city has dramatically expanded in size, taking large chunks of land from the surrounding Oromia regional state, the principal homeland of ethnic Oromos.

Some Oromos believe the capital, a chartered city completely surrounded by Oromia, should be part of the region though the city is home to a range of ethnicities from across Ethiopia, Africa's second most-populous country.