Oromo Anti-Ethiopian Protesters in Nairobi Charged with Unlawful Assembly

NAIROBI, Kenya – Forty Ethiopian nationals of the Oromo community were charged at a Nairobi Court in Kenya, for holding an unlawful assembly in Kenya’s capital on Sunday and being in the country illegally.

The accused people were arraigned in Nairobi’s Kibra Law courts before Senior Principal Magistrate, Elizabeth Osoro.

It is alleged that on October 2, 2016 at City Park Nairobi, they were found engaging in public assembly without a license. Seven of them are also accused of being in the country unlawfully.

Their lawyer, Stanely Kang’ahi told the court the accused people had a permit from the Nairobi city county to hold a feast in celebration of their culture.

The advocate further said that some of the members of the Oromo community are refugees in Kenya who ran away from tribal clashes in their country and had applied to be admitted in Kenya as refugees and are awaiting approval.

They denied the charges and were each released on a Ksh 50,000 shillings bond with a surety of similar amount each.

The case will be mentioned October 17, 2016.

The Oromo community, which is the nation’s largest ethnic group, has been protesting against government plans to reallocate farmland.

Plans to allocate land surrounding the capital for development prompted fierce demonstrations in November 2015 and spread for months, in the country’s worst unrest in more than a decade.

Ethiopia has long been one of the world’s poorest nations but has industrialised rapidly in the past decade. But reallocating land is a thorny issue for Ethiopians, many of whom are subsistence farmers.

Protests in the country on Sunday saw more than 50 people killed in a stampede in Oromiya region, triggered when police used teargas and shot in the air to disperse anti-government protesters at a religious festival.

The state broadcaster put the death toll at 52, citing regional officials. The opposition also said at least 50 people were killed at the annual festival where some people had chanted slogans against the government and waved a rebel group’s flag.

Sporadic protests have erupted in Oromiya in the last two years, initially sparked by a land row but increasingly turning more broadly against the government.

Since late 2015, scores of protesters have been killed in clashes with police.

(Reporting by Richard Mbaya; Editing by Omar Nor  & Robyn Hunter)