Human Rights Watch Dispatches: Anger Boiling Over in Ethiopia: Declaration of State of Emergency Risks Further Abuses

On October 9, the Ethiopian government declared a country-wide six-month state of emergency. It has been a bloody year for Ethiopia, and the past few weeks have been no different.

Scores of people – possibly hundreds – died in a stampede on October 2 in Bishoftu, Oromia region, fleeing security force gunfire and teargas during the annual Irreecha harvest festival, important for the country’s 40 million ethnic Oromos. This was the latest lethal crackdown by the government, which has suppressed hundreds of protests across Oromia that grew out of opposition to development plans around the capital, Addis Ababa, last November.

Protestors run from tear gas launched by security personnel during the Irecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.

Protestors run from tear gas launched by security personnel during the Irecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016.

While the vast majority of those protests have been peaceful, anger boiled over last week after the deaths at Irreecha. In Oromia, protesters attacked government buildings and private businesses perceived to be close to the ruling party, setting some on fire.

Now, under the state of emergency – declared on state television – the army will be deployed country-wide. Intensifying the military’s role in responding to the protests is sure to fuel the escalating anger in Oromia.

From the hundreds of interviews Human Rights Watch has carried out with protesters, witnesses and victims since the protests began, it is clear that each act of brutality by the military – the same military now tasked with restoring law and order – further emboldens the protest movement.

The government’s announcement indicates that it does not intend to reverse course, away from the use of force and towards engagement with communities about their grievances. Instead it seems determined to use force to suppress free expression and peaceful assembly.

Until Ethiopians can voice their views about critical issues such as development and governance, anger and frustration will likely continue, plunging the country into further uncertainty and possibly toward an even more dire and irreversible human rights crisis.

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The Oromos are going to celeberate IRREECHAA (Thanks Giving Day) this weekend on Sunday, October 4/2015 @ Hora Arsedi in Bishoftu City. Irreechaa is the biggest religious event whereby millions of Oromos across the country gather at one place, Hora Arsedi, and praise their WAAQAA that helped them pass from the rainy and dark Ganna Season to Birra, a season that is bright, shiny and full of hopes. The number of Oromos attending this festival has been increasing from year to year. This year alone, more than three million people are expected to be part of this event and this makes IRREECHAA the biggest festival on earth.
However, it has not been promoted so well to make it catch the attention of the world. In this respect, a lot remains to be done. First, the media in the country have to report about it in length giving details as much as they cover and report about other religious and social events in Ethiopia, Africa and other parts of the world. The media, particularly, the broadcast media, in the country has given a very little attention to IRREECHA celebrations. The biggest state broadcaster, EBC, that presents live transmission of Meskel annually and recently did the same for Chambalala, but have made no efforts to do the same for IRREECHAA. What they always do is 20 minutes report during EHUD MEZNAGNA. After that they never mention of IRREECHAA what so ever. What is wrong with ETV when it comes reporting and giving live coverage to IRREECHAA celebrations? The event is taking place in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, not in Mombassa, Kenya. No one understands why the ETV knowingly ignore, an event attended by millions of Oromos and tens of thousands of tourists.
IRREECHA is a religious practice, but in recent days its meaning is not only confined to religion, and it goes beyond that. Oromos from all walks of life , young and old, Christians and muslims, men and women, the Borena and the Barentu, the poor and the rich, the urbanites and the rural residents attend IRREECHAA with one spirit. Nowadays, IRREECHA serves as a platform for the Oromos to connect, share experiences and display their culture to the world. It has now become a forum where Oromos express themselves …their oneness…their unity.
Last year(September, 2014), TVO tried to give a live coverage for the event, however, the live transmission was stopped in the middle as the Aba Geda of Tullama, Bayana Sanbatoo was addressing the mass. It was really disappointing for those who were following the festival at home on TV.

Irreecha 1 Irrecha 2 Irreecha 3This year, we expect EBC will give alive coverage to IRREECHAA , but if they do not do that it means that they have a real problem with IRREECHAA and of course with the Oromo people.


Irreechaa: Color & Treasure of Oromo

Thank you so much Amensisa Ifa for the wonderful job you have done to promote Irreechaa. This documentry is the first of its kind that I have seen that attempts to bring Irreecha, The Thanks Giving Day, celeberated every year by millions of Oromos at Hora Arsedi in Bishoftu to the attention of the world.

Very little attention has been given to this colourful celeberation that we find nowhere in the world but Oromia. The media in the country that claim to be the voice of diversity (EBC, for example) have purposely ignored Irreecha though it deserves a live coverage, promotion and apprecaition. TV Oromiya, which is owned and operated by Oromia Regional state has done less than what is expected from it in promoting Irreechaa. This year what OBS TV did was very encouraging as its journalists followed the whole event and helped us see it at our homes.

Here comes, your documentry which I really liked watching because it is produced in such a way that it gives the picture of Irreecha to those who don’t know about it. We need to do a lot of promotion work as Irreecha has been nominated by UNESCO to be inscribed as the world intangible cultural heritage along with the Gada system. As an Oromo, I am very much proud of you, my brother, as you have set an example to all of us and we have learnt a lot from you.I hope that you will keep on doing what you are doing now. We will be on your side as this is not only your responsiblity; it is also our responsiblity to promote our culture, develop our language and rewrite our history. VIVA Amensisa Ifa!!RESPECT YOU!https: