Dozens killed in religious festival in Ethiopia

03 Oct 2016 | By Supriya Kaur

Dozens of people were reported dead in a religious festival in Oromia, Ethiopia on Sunday.

The deaths occurred due to a stampede in Bishoftu, a town located 40km away from the capital Addis Ababa.

The stampede broke out when police started firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an anti-government protest.

The Oromia government confirmed the death of at least 52 people.

In context: Tragedy strikes Oromia festival in Ethiopia

ReasonsUnrest in Oromia, Ethiopia

The unrest in Oromia started in 2014 when development-plans to expand the capital into Oromia were unveiled, threatening the takeover of farmland.

Two of Ethiopia's most populous regions, Oromia and Amhara, have seen massive protests due to underlying resentment over political and economic marginalization.

However, the government has blamed rebel groups and dissidents living outside the country for instigating the violent protests.

Common cause

The two largest ethnic groups of Oromo and Amhara, have been protesting against the ruling dispensation as it is dominated by the Tigray ethnic group that comprises of only six percent of the population and has led to other major ethnic groups being poorly represented.
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03 Oct 2016Dozens killed in religious festival in Ethiopia

Stampede at Oromia Festival

What happened?Stampede at Oromia Festival

The Oromia region is one of the most sensitive regions in Ethiopia; in the last several months there have been violent local protests demanding 'wider freedoms'.

At the festival on Sunday, protesters chanted slogans against the regional party, the Oromo People's Democratic Organization and prevented pro-government speakers from speaking.

The police fired tear gas to disperse protesters leading to chaos and a stampede.

Deadly protests

According to data available from New York-based NGO, Human Rights Watch, since the protests and demonstrations began ten months ago last November, nearly 500 people have been killed by security forces.

ResponsesDiverse reactions

Social media in Ethiopia was awash with anger at the government over the deaths of protesters.

However, the government communications office made a statement blaming "evil acts masterminded by forces who are irresponsible" for the lives that were lost.

Very recently, the U.S. had expressed serious concern at 'excessive force being used against protesters and described the situation as "extremely serious".

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Festival turns into a tragedy

The annual celebrations at the festival are very important to the Oromo community to welcome spring. The festival was attended by nearly 2 million people but turned into a massive tragedy. The government has declared a three day mourning period.