Ethnic Oromo students in Ethiopia are ratcheting up opposition to the territorial expansion of the Horn of Africa nation’s capital, Addis Ababa.
Thousands of students at all eight regional universities in Oromia, the largest of Ethiopia’s federal states, turned in recent days to demand an immediate halt to the city’s so-called “Integrated Development Master Plan,” unveiled earlier this month.
According to documents seen by Think Africa Press, the proposed plans will expand Addis Ababa’s boundaries to 1.1 million hectares, covering an area more than 20 times its current size. Under this plan, 36 surrounding Oromia towns and cities will come under Addis Ababa’s jurisdiction. Oromo students, opposition and activists say the plan will undermine Oromia’s constitutionally granted special interest.
On Tuesday 29 April, an estimated 25,000 people, including residents of Ambo town in central Oromia, participated in a city wide demonstration, in the largest show of opposition to the government’s plans to date.
A handful of students have been injured and others arrested in protests at the campuses of Jimma, Haromaya, Ambo, Wollega, Metu, Bolu Hora, Adama and Maddawalabu universities, according to local reports.
Once dubbed a “sleeping beauty,” by Emperor Haile Selassie, Addis Ababa is an awakening city on the move. Vertically, buoyed by a growing economy and rural to urban migration, there is construction almost on every block – so much so that locals refer to it as “a city under construction.”
Founded in 1886 by emperor Menelik II and his wife Empress Taytu Betul, Addis Ababa sits at the heart of the Oromia Regional State. According to the country’s constitution, while semi-autonomous, Addis Ababa is treated as a federal district with special privileges granted to the Oromia region, for which it also serves as the capital.