Ethiopia’s information minister has defended the imposition of a state of emergency saying “organised gangs have been targeting civilians”.
Federal troops will be deployed across the country and protests can be banned.
It follows months of anti-government demonstrations by members of the country’s two largest ethnic groups.
Violence has intensified since last Sunday when at least 55 people were killed during a protests at an Oromo religious festival.
The state of emergency, which was announced on Sunday, will last for six months.
BBC World Service Africa editor Mary Harper says the violent protests are the most serious threat to Ethiopian stability in a quarter of a century.
Ethiopia’s Information Minister Getachew Reda told her that the state of emergency could involve banning protests.
“For the sake of maintaining public order the government believes that [the] temporary suspension of certain expression rights is warranted,” he explained.
“Armed violence that has been perpetrated by those organised gangs has been targeting civilians, has been targeting government installations, critical infrastructure.
“We have ample evidence that it is orchestrated by people who are in the business of not [just] dismantling the Ethiopian government but also dismantling the Ethiopian state in its entirety,” he said.
He also promised that the Ethiopian authorities will investigate claims that “off-grid” police officers have killed civilians.
The protests in recent months have been over a series of frustrations including attempts by the governments to reallocate land in the Oromo region.
Activists among the Oromo and Amhara communities complain that they are being politically excluded.
The Oromo and the Amhara make up about 60% of the population. They complain power is held by a tiny Tigrayan elite.