Human rights watchdogs in Ethiopia on Sunday claimed that more than 500 people have been killed in anti-government protests across the country over the last year. The Ethiopian government on Saturday evening declared a state of emergency, but claimed this was an “inflated figure” even as the unrest turned particularly violent over the few weeks.

The situation has been tense around the country’s Oromia region, which is near the national capital of Adis Ababa. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn called for the emergency on the state-run television channel on Sunday, and it is expected to last for six months. The government claimed this would help “deal with anti-peace elements that have allied with foreign forces and are jeopardising the peace and security of the country".

The protests involve the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara, who claim that the minority Tigray hold most of the political power in the country. They also claim government mismanagement, agricultural problems, and political and human rights abuses. The agitations intensified after October 2, when scores of people died during a protest after police started firing at them and set off a stampede.