ADDIS ABABA – At least 24 students were injured on Thursday when ethnic-based clashes erupted among university students on Arat Kilo campus of Addis Ababa University. The fights broke out when students heading to the cafeteria in the morning saw the walls of the main library on campus and other places covered with graffiti that denigrate the Oromo people.
The violent clashes included window smashings and physical fights that continued into the middle of the day, though police tried to quell the unrest several times. Police also threw into custody a handful of students suspected of playing leading roles in the unrest.
The government in Ethiopia has a history of sparking unrest among various ethnic groups. University students are no exception because, traditionally, political changes that resulted in the overthrow of previous governments trace their roots to student activism on campus.
The tradition of university students initiating political unrest in the country came to an end when the current government seized power in 1991, and decreed “ethnic federalism” which in reality fragmented the unity of the Ethiopian people as well as university students.
Students have little interest in starting clashes among themselves, and observers say the number one suspect is the government itself.
By 2:00 pm Addis Ababa time, police had cordoned off the area, and students were neither allowed to enter nor leave Arat Kilo Campus, which houses facilities of the Faculty of Natural Sciences.