Irreecha Massacre Was Not a Stampede: Planned and Mechanized Massacre of Hundreds Oromo Civilians in Minutes

By Habtamu Dugo & Joanne Eisen*

Agazi soldier seen atop a Humvee mounted with machine gun facing the mass. Social media image

Agazi soldier seen atop a Humvee mounted with machine gun facing the mass. Social media image

In a span of minutes, Ethiopia’s TPLF army and air force massacred more than 700unarmed Oromo civilians attending Irreecha cultural festival, the largest outdoor cultural event in Africa attended by millions of visitors from all over Oromia state every year.  Based on interviews with the Ethiopian regime’s propaganda minister Getachew Reda, Ethiopia-based Western journalists misrepresented and framed the intentional massacre of Oromo civilians as “stampede.”

It was not a stampede; it was a planned part of an ongoing genocide—why refuse to call it by its real name?  Reporters with close ties to the TPLF regime of Ethiopia, such asBloomberg News’ William Davison and Reuters’ reporter and TPLF-sympathizer and undercover propagandist Aaron Maasho and others at BBC and CNN, ran with disturbing headlines that squarely mispresented the cause for the intentional massacre of  hundreds and injuries of thousands of Oromo as ‘stampede’.  Across international media outlets, reporters parroted stories with a fixed number of “50” deaths grossly under-reporting the numbers and absolving the regime of the genocide it committed based on pre-selected images, pictures and edited footages that hid most of the reality of the actual victims who were shot from helicopters, ground forces and machine-gun mounted Humvees, according to eyewitnesses, bloggers and social media activists.

Aroon Maashoo and William Davison even escalated the denial of the massacre by painting unarmed civilians as ‘unruly’ and ‘violent’ in an attempt to justify the mass killing.  Along with the regime’s propaganda minister, these journalists misattributed the cause for the deaths of this large number of people in one day to a mere “stampede” due to warning shots and tear gas fired from police.

Dr. Fedesa Mengesha, a government doctor, quoted in Bloomberg news, said that none of the 50 corpses he examined died of gunshot wounds. Of course, he could not have seen bodies with bullets because they were taken north.  A number of eyewitnesses, bloggers and social media activists reported that all those who were killed by bullets fired from armored vehicles and foot soldiers were immediately transported to Addis Ababa by air and on military convoys to avoid photographing and video-taping. The fact that government managed to ship bodies of hundreds killed with bullets to Addis Ababa, just within 25 miles from Bishoftu where the massacre took place, shows us that the regime preplanned both the massacre as well as methods of denying that it happened even when people saw it unfold. They had the manpower and the technology to transport the victims and hide them in the neighboring cities.  Many live tweets supported with multimedia evidence were posted to Twitter under the hashtags #IrreechaMassacre is “ #NOTASTAMPEDE” and “#OromoProtests”  and some bloggers who posted pictures of Humvees were in Bishoftu for Irreecha and they were sending out messages afterward in all the ways they could in order to refute the blatant denial that the deaths of hundreds of innocents were caused by stampede.

The other strong indicators that the regime preplanned the mass killing in Bishoftu is the fact that it has killed at least 1000 civilians during Oromo protests prior to the 10/2/2016  Irreecha Massacre.

Lines of communications such as landlines, mobile phone services, social media applications were cut off hours before the festival started.  Prior to and after the massacre, the US Government’s Voice of America radio programs were jammed, another indication that the massacre was centrally planned in advance. Eyewitnesses related to us that international journalists and diplomats visiting Irreecha were systematically removed from the site shortly before the aerial and ground attacks on Oromo unarmed festival-goers began.

After the massacre, the regime announced a more elaborate genocide denial strategy to further absolve itself from the responsibility of taking the lives of hundreds and injuring thousands of Oromo with live ammunitions.   The regime jokingly declared on state-controlled EBCTV that three days of “national mourning” will be observed with flags flying at half-mast in the country and aboard ships and at Ethiopian embassies worldwide.

Western journalists misrepresented  deliberate genocide  as  “stampede” by showing pre-selected pictures and edited videos of a few cases  of fatal stampede deaths, but left out most of the reality—that unarmed civilians were murdered using heavy weapons such as helicopter gunships, machine guns mounted on Humvees and high-caliber weapons fired from soldiers on the ground. The denial and selected reporting of the reality based only on misinformation from the perpetrators makes the Oromo massacre of October 2, 2016 doubly tragic. They were killed and injured by the regime, but that truth has been whitewashed by yellow journalists who keep misinforming the world about the genocide and crimes against humanity that’s being committed in Oromia, Ethiopia.

The fact that hardly anybody died of stampede for decades in the past when millions gathered to celebrate Irreecha shows that the misrepresentation of this massacre by some journalists does a lot of damage by hiding the extent of the genocide and the crimes against humanity the Ethiopian regime committed on September 2, August 6 and for all of the 25 years of its fascistic reign.

People on the ground know the facts of who did what, but the global public is being fed fabricated “stampede” stories that come straight out of Ethiopia’s regime leaders.

People have come to Lake Arsadi in Bishoftu town to celebrate this massively-attended cultural and pious event to give thanks to God/Waaqaa for nature, life, change of season, and for good harvest.

The attacks of 10-2 are attacks on Oromo lives (Oromummaa), culture and land. The Oromo people will never forget or forgive this large TPLF state-terrorism. In the collective memory of the Oromo people and their friends, this massacre of Oromo nationals has significant and enduring impact as did the 9-11 terrorist attack on the United States, which claimed the lives of nearly 3000 people. If some did the counting right, and the reporting right, instead of lying with/for the Ethiopian regime, the number of total lives of the Oromo lost on 10-2 is at least 1200 people—lost in a matter of minutes.

The Oromo are united in their grief and purpose in freeing themselves from colonialism, state-terrorism and genocide in Oromia and Ethiopia. The TPLF leadership of Ethiopia regime is responsible for the ongoing mass murder in Oromia and other places.  Our people’s spirits can’t be dampened by the mass killing. We will march stronger together until we regain our freedom, wealth, culture, identity and self-government.

*Habtamu Dugo is an Oromo-American Citizen, independent journalist and professor based in the Washington DC metropolitan area and he can be reached at Dr. Joanne Eisen is a Senior Fellow for Criminal Justice and Genocide at Independence Institute, Denver, Colorado.  

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