But a local doctor says the death toll as likely to be more than 100, and that the stampede was worsened by special forces personnel driving at the crowd with pick-up trucks and armoured vehicles.
As many as 200 people are reported to have been arrested in the wake of the crush, only adding to the unrest in the region which has festered since November 2015.
The government says 52 people are confirmed to have died as police dispersed the crowd at a huge religious festival in Bishoftu, in the Oromia region.
Officials say anti-government protesters were chanting and throwing projectiles at a stage where religious leaders were speaking, and that those who died were crushed to death in a stampede trying to flee police tear gas and guns fired in the air.
How do we explain the diverging trajectories of young people who, like these girls, experienced most of their childhood during the period of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and for whom poverty was a constant, though dynamic, feature of everyday life growing up?
How similar or different are their experiences when compared to their parents’ and grandparents’?
Five girls (pictured above), are all born in the same year, growing up in the same small village in northern Ethiopia.
By the end of their second decade of life, two are married and mothers, two have failed the national Grade 10 exam so are looking for work and one has left her job working as a maid in the Middle East and returned to Ethiopia.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Dr Fedesa Mengesha said that of the 50 bodies he alone had personally examined, none had died from bullet wounds.
“Around 100 people died and some people are saying there are also a lot of people buried under water,” he said.
"Some people tried to come out en masse this morning to protest the deaths of holiday-goers on Sunday and also demand the release of people arrested during the celebrations," Nimona Negash, a tuk-tuk driver in Bishoftu, told the Associated Press.