Tight security, many arrests for Ethiopian Irreecha festival

JOHANNESBURG (AP), the largest ethnic association in Ethiopia, the Oromo, organized an annual Thanksgiving festival in Irreecha on Saturday, in the midst of tense stability.

Hundreds of citizens have been detained since the festival, others have been suspected of violent threats and a fresh outbreak of protests by the authorities.

The residents of downtown Addis Abeba have had to endure at least six protection checks, along with body scans, in some locations sniffer dogs, utilizing eye masks and white wipes stitched to the colors of the Flag of Oromia.

Hassen, the participant who provided only his first name, worried for his life. "I don't know the kind of details, but the security inspections are too much," he said.

"COVID-19 added, the holiday spirit has always been destroyed."

Hundreds of thousands are normally drawn to the event, but just a few thousand were permitted to join this year.

The Oromia Police Commission said Thursday that over 500 individuals had been detained on the presumption that they were trying to interrupt the festival.

On the same day, the National Intelligence and Security Service reported that it had detained people accused of plotting terrorist acts and provoked disruption in the festivities in Addis Abeba and nearby Bishoftu.

People from other regions traveling to the capital were not allowed into the area, the Associated Press said several reports.

Officials also stated that they have done stringent safety inspections, but have not acknowledged the prohibition.

In specific, this year's festival was not attended by the citizens with flags on the Oromo Emancipation Front and the Oromo Federalist Conference.

The suspected presence of several party officials in the deadly turmoil following the murder of Oromo singer Hachalu Hunsa in June has been put behind bars.

Four entities were indicted by an Ethiopian court on Friday, which culminated in chaos that saw more than 180 people arrested and thousands detained.

While the Oromo is the largest ethnic group in the world, it has historically been angry over alleged marginalisation.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is the first chief of Oromo in the world, but some Oromo are increasingly negative regarding his lack for the world.

At the end of the rainy season the Irreecha festival is the beginning of harvesting.

In the past, it has seen abuse.

A dozen people were stamped down to death during the 2016 celebration in Bishoftu, a town about 40 kilometers away from the city, as police shot tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress the anti-government demonstrators.

"Restrictions on public hearings may be justified in the wake of a pandemic.

But manifestations of opposition and resistance to the guidelines of government can be anticipated with already high tensions.

The Government can prove that its latest reactions and the happenings in 2016 have taught it that they have been restrained by security forces and that collectors should rejoice peacefully, "tweeted Human Rights Watch Director Laetitia Bader, of the Horn of Africa project.

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