ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, descended en masse on Saturday in the city center of the capital Addis Ababa to celebrate Ireecha, an annual ritual of thanksgiving.
Part of the Oromo Geda system – a traditional socio-political governance based on age classification to assign responsibilities – Ireecha is an outdoor public event in which people gather around bodies of water, holding clumps of green grass to thank Waqqaa (God).
Ireecha usually occurs at the end of September – a season in Ethiopia when the main rainy season ends and the fields are full of crops and flowers.
“Ireecha is an occasion for love, peace and unity,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in his Ireecha message.
Addis Ababa is an autonomously administered city surrounded by Oromia Special Zones.
Obsu Fufa, Assefa Takele and Ajema Dejene are friends who came from Legetafo, a special area of Oromia surrounding the capital, to celebrate Ireecha.
“I have no words to describe how happy I was to be part of this celebration,” Fufa told Anadolu Agency. “We traveled overnight to get here very early in the morning.”
Takele said “this is the first celebration of Ireecha in 150 years in Addis Ababa, a city the Oromo call Finfinee (water source)”.
He said it was a very joyful time for the Oromo people in particular and for all Ethiopians in general.
Ajema, for his part, described the event in Addis Ababa as a place where the Oromo people “heaved a sigh of joy” for achieving freedom.
Prior to April 2018, when ethnic Oromo Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power, the Oromo people felt marginalized – a feeling that has snowballed for centuries to erupt and manifest itself in an anti-government struggle uninterrupted for three years. protests that helped usher in an era of reform.
It should be recalled that three years ago dozens of people were killed in a stampede after security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at an Ireecha celebration in the town of Bushoftu, 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa as angry young Oromos (qeeros) demanded freedom.
Prior to April 2018, Ethiopia had been ruled for 27 years by the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), a four-party coalition dominated and manipulated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose members claim to have been the guard of the 17 year old armed struggle who overthrew the Marxist regime of Colonel Mengustu Hailemariam.
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