At least 140 people have been killed in Ethiopia during the past two months in a crackdown on protesters opposing the expansion of the municipal boundary of Addis Ababa, Human Rights Watch said in a report tweeted on Friday.
The protesters fear that the municipal expansion will displace ethnic Oromo farmers from their land, the rights group said, describing the crackdown as possibly the biggest crisis to hit Ethiopia since election violence in 2005.
Authorities have recently arrested several Oromo leaders. Those include the December 23 detention of Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the Oromia region's largest political party, according to HRW.
His whereabouts are unknown, raising concern of an enforced disappearance, the group added.
Oromia, which includes Addis Ababa, is the largest of Ethiopia’s nine federal states, with a population of about 30 million people. It has its own language, Oromo, which is distinct from Ethiopia’s official Amharic language.
“By treating opposition politicians and peaceful protesters with an iron fist, the government is closing off ways for Ethiopians to non-violently express legitimate grievances,” HRW said.
Dpa was unable to immediately obtain a comment from the Ethiopian government.