State of emergency: Merkel visits Ethiopia, sues for peace

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, according to Reuters, 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.

Western states, which are among the biggest donors to what is still a poor nation, want their companies to win deals in Ethiopia but have become increasingly concerned by the government’s authoritarian approach to development.

“I made the case that you should have open talks with people who have problems,” Merkel told Hailemariam, adding that police should respond proportionately to protests.