Irreecha Massacre: Hundreds of Oromo Festival Goers Feared Dead in Bishoftu

Politics News

What was supposed to be an annual Oromo Thanksgiving festival suddenly turned into a scene of a horrific massacre that left hundreds of Oromo people dead and more wounded.

By TesfaNews,

The annual Irreecha religious festival of the Oromo people that was held on Sunday in Bishoftu, 40 km south of the capital Addis Ababa, ends with tragedy after regime forces fired teargas and guns from the ground and a military helicopter to disperse a protest, triggering a stampede, witnesses said.

Among the over a million festival goers, crowds formed and started chanting “we need freedom” slogans with their arms crossed above their heads. That triggers security forces to fire teargas and warning shots resulting in the death of hundreds just like that.

Social activists and Director of the Oromo Media Network, Jawar Mohammed citing police sources, said besides the 120 confirmed deaths inside Bishoftu Hospital, another 175 dead bodies have been loaded and taken to Addis Ababa.

Hundreds feared dead in Bishoftu Massacre

(OPride) – At least 250 feared dead in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, after police used tear gas and opened fire on people gathered to mark Irreechaa, the Oromo thanksgiving festival, according to activists and eyewitness reports. The Irreechaa holiday at Hora Arsadi, the crater lake near the site of Sunday’s massacre, is considered the biggest cultural and spiritual celebration in Africa.

On this day, October 2, which will be entered into history books as the Irreechaa Massacre, the sacred grounds of Arsadi were littered with dead bodies, according to reports. The mass arrests began a day early. Tensions run high all day as military helicopters flew above the crowd at lower altitude, in what was seen as an effort to intimidate the gathering crowd. At the city entrances, security checkpoints stretched for hours as festival goers arrived from across Oromia. But despite the heavy security presence, Irreechaa goers still expected to partake in a peaceful celebration of the arrival of Birraa, as the holiday marks a seasonal change from dark and rainy winter months to a bountiful Spring.

But chaos, confusion and stampede broke out in the early afternoon when the youth booed the newly elected chairman of the ruling Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, OPDO, off the stage. The protests began as soon as the crowd filed into the malka, the river bank, close to the stage where politicians hoped to make political statements – statements that are often unheard and unheeded even on a “normal” year. It’s clear that the youth were ready to make a statement of their own to the local officialdom – in an unusual in your face type of way. But their protests were peaceful. They crossed arms, forming an X, popularized by Oromo marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa, to say no to the killings, beatings and arrests. It is an incident like no other. A turning point for the 11-month old Oromo protests, a popular uprising against the Oromo people’s continued social, economic and political marginalization by the central government in Ethiopia.

Irreechaa has emerged at the most important event among the Oromo. It is officially a celebration of the bountiful harvest of Birra but a celebration of Oromummaa itself. It is the most unifying event for the Oromo, who constitute at least half of Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

This wasn’t an ordinary year for Oromo and for Ethiopians as a whole. More than 1,000 people have been killed, mostly in Oromia, but also in the Amhara state in the last 11 months.