IOLA Press Statement Regarding the Irreechaa Massacre of October 2016
On the 2nd of October 2016, Ethiopian security forces shot live ammunition into the massive crowd (estimated in millions) and fired tear gas during the Irreechaa Festival, the Oromo’s thanks giving day. As we now understand, in a matter of 30 minutes, hundreds of unsuspecting celebrant’s were killed and thousands have suffered severe injuries and mental trauma.
According to the statement from the opposition political party, The Oromo Federalist Congress, up until the 3rd of October 2016, the death toll has passed 678. This figure has continued to increase and the number of those injured is not yet accounted for.
The Oromo’s have been celebrating Irreechaa for many years peacefully, but it has never entertained such a tragedy. This year’s festival was in fact different from the previous ones on several grounds. There was unusually massive security presence from the start. The hills behind the stage and surrounding lake were all occupied by heavily armed forces.
Several armored vehicles were pointing their warheads at the crowd and gunship helicopter was deployed. As the Oromo Protest (#OromoProtests) and disagreement with the government continued, political cadres from the ruling party were assigned and took central stage at this event. Given the continued protest and ongoing killings, such gross disrespect of the revered Irreechaa ceremony by the government cadres further infuriated the mass who continued to chant slogans.