Oromo Festival Aims at Reconciling Ethiopians

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians gathered in upbeat mood for the annual festival of the Oromo people, the biggest ethnic group in the country, a year after the event turned into an anti-government protest.

The thanksgiving Irreecha religious festival which took place in Bishoftu, 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, celebrates the end of the rainy season.

Reconciliation was the theme of this year’s event, held two weeks after clashes between groups from the Oromo, who inhabit the land around the capital, and residents from other ethnic minorities.

The violence left dozens dead in the capital and its Burayu suburb.

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Endrias Wegede, a thirty-something member of the ethnic Gamo (“Lion”) people, said he was attending the festival for the first time, at the invitation of the Oromo elders and politicians to foster reconciliation

“Oromo people’s kindness and cooperation helped avoid even more of a bloodbath in Burayu, while our community elders also protected Oromo lives and properties in our region” said Wegede.

People from community of Oromo from different parts of Ethiopia celebrate Irreecha Afaan Oromo, also called Irreessa, a Thanksgiving holiday of the Oromo People in Ethiopia September 30, 2018. — AFP

Many of those killed in the recent violence were ethnic Gamos, who live side by side with the larger Oromo community.

Sunday’s festivities passed off peacefully.

During the 2016 Irreecha, at least 55 people were killed after falling into deep ditches in a stampede as they ran to avoid tear gas fire from security forces.

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Last year the event turned into an anti-government protest.

But since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in April, as the first Oromo head of government, there have been a series of gestures and reforms.

However intercommunal conflict, often territorial, has continued and a million people have been displaced by the violence.

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