German leader calls for Ethiopia to open up politics after unrest

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Ethiopia on Tuesday to open up its politics and ensure police do not use heavy-handed tactics against protesters, after more than a year of unrest that rights groups say has led to about 500 deaths.

Merkel, who spoke at a news conference with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, arrived in Ethiopia after a fresh flare-up near the capital of the clashes that have cast a shadow over a nation with one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

The violence prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency on Sunday. It says the death toll cited by rights groups is exaggerated and blames the wave of violence on “armed gangs” backed by foreigners.

The United States expressed concern on Tuesday about the state of emergency. State Department spokesman John Kirby said measures that restore order but deprive people of rights like freedom of speech and assembly were a “self-defeating tactic that exacerbates rather than addresses the grievances.”

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