Ireecha, is the thanksgiving festival of the oromo people, giving thanks to God for the blessings and mercies they have received the previous year celebrated at the sacred grounds of Hora, Bishoftu.
October 2, 2016, the Oromo people gathered to celebrate this event regardless what has been happening the previous year, regardless to how many people they have lost throughout the protest, regardless of all the wrongdoing that was directed towards them, they still managed to gather so they could give thanks to all what’s left of the blessing they could get.
But the whole event took another turn, praising ceremony to mourning.
Sporadic protests have erupted in Oromiya in the last two years, initially sparked by a land row but increasingly turning more broadly against the government. Since late 2015, scores of protesters have been killed in clashes with police.
Yesterday,thousands of people had gathered for the annual Irreecha festival of thanksgiving in the town of Bishoftu, about 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa.
The state broadcaster put the death toll at 52, citing regional officials. The opposition also said at least 50 people were killed at the annual festival where some people had chanted slogans against the government and waved a rebel group’s flag.
When police fired teargas and guns into the air, crowds fled and created a stampede, some of them plunging into a deep ditch.
The witnesses said they saw people dragging out a dozen or more victims, showing no obvious sign of life. Half a dozen people, also motionless, were seen being taken by pick-up truck to a hospital, one witness said.
“As a result of the chaos, lives were lost and several of the injured were taken to hospital,” the government communications office said in a statement, without giving figures. “Those responsible will face justice.”
The government had put the death toll at 52.
Bloomberg says that the people were either drowned or “crushed to death”.
It said the deaths occurred as people were running away from armoured vehilces which were being used to disperse the crowds.
“Around 100 people died and some people are saying there are also a lot of people buried under water,” the doctor told Bloomberg from Bishoftu.
“We are expecting more.” He said that he had not yet seen anyone who had died from bullet wounds.
Ethiopia has begun three days of national mourning for those who died.