Although an official police statement from Bishoftu says that visitors are welcome to today’s celebration of Irrecha, the Oromo national unity holiday, the truth is far different. Since yesterday the 39 kilometer expressway from Addis Ababa (known as Finfinne to Oromos before the Amhara conquest) to Bishoftu has been mostly blocked off. Many witnesses report that numerous Oromo youth from Addis Ababa and other areas have been arrested by police trying to enter Bishoftu. Despite the roadblock the editor of Addis Standard in her twitter reports says that many are still choosing to walk the 39 kilometer distance by foot to attend the celebrations at lake Hora Arsedi. Many have been quoted as saying that Abiy Ahmed will not succeed in stopping Oromo protestation to wrongful imprisonment of Oromo leaders and other grievances including extrajudicial killings.
The Ethiopian Federal government is so fearful that large formations of federal police and soldiers are now deployed in Bishoftu. A complete blackout of telephone, cell, electricity, and internet services has been done. Hospitals and clinics are under strict orders not to report any injuries in Bishoftu just as yesterday doctors and nurses in Addis were rebuked for reporting injuries at Irrecha celebrations in Addis Ababa. Additionally there are now reports that prominent human rights leaders from Addis Ababa including Tesfalem Waldyes, founder of Ethiopia Insight, have been arrested.
Instead of coming to the major Oromo cultural event of the year, Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and of Oromo ancestry, decided instead to send armed soldiers and pickup trucks mounted with high caliber machine guns. Witnesses from the scene report that unarmed Oromos began to protest the jailing of Jawar Mohammed and others while shouting “down with Abiy!”. In response the large crowd was sprayed with bullets killing many. Doctor contacts at Paulos Hospital in Addis Ababa report many causalities, at least more then 10, some in serious condition have so far been received.
This week the Oromo people of Ethiopia who make up the largest ethnic group of over 30% celebrate a special holiday called Irrecha. It signifies the end of the rainy cold season. The event usually occurs near a large body of water to honor the nature deity, Waaqa, and give thanks for the blessings of the past year. It is more than a religious holiday as Oromia of all faiths Christian and Muslim also celebrate the holiday as a day of unity and cultural recognition.
Abiy Ahmed’s father was Oromo and in his Parliamentary position, Abiy Ahmed was a representative of the Oromo area just north of Addis. His rise to power was fueled by Oromo leader, Jawar Mohammed, and his Qeero (bachelor) movement. However since taking power, the PM switched allegiance to Amhara expansionists who have a long history of enslaving and denying rights to the Oromo. He has jailed on charges of terrorism many of his previous Oromo supporters and mentors including Mohammed. An armed resistance, the Oromo Liberation Army, is growing by the day in hopes to depose the Prime Minister who they see as a traitor to the Oromo cause.
Tomorrow a major celebration is planned at a sacred lake in Bishoftu a short distance from Addis Ababa. However, now security forces are blocking the highway connecting from Addis Ababa trying to stop the gathering. Apparently Abiy Ahmed fears that more protests against the government will occur embarrassing the PM that his own people are against him while this week he is in the midst of the upcoming presentation of his new Prosperity Party government this week. Many Oromia and others feel these elections in their regional state were unfair to opposition parties.