Monday, 3 October 2016

Ethiopia observes 3-day mourning, government insists 52 died in Oromia

The Ethiopian government has called
for three days of national mourning

beginning Monday after several people
died during a stampede at a festival in
the Oromia region on Sunday.
The stampede was sparked by
Ethiopia’s special forces who fired
teargas and warning shots to disperse
protesters at the annual Irreecha
thanksgiving festival in the town of
Bishoftu.
The government blamed “anti-peace
forces” for the stampede which they
say has claimed 52 lives.
The Oromia regional government said
in a statement that the “innocent
citizens lost their lives because of the
violence instigated by anti-peace
forces” while adding that “52 died in
the stampede”.
The official death toll comes hours
after the first official confirmation of
the incident in which the government
made no mention of the number but
blamed rioters for the stampede.
“As a result of the chaos, lives were
lost and several of the injured were
taken to hospital … Those responsible
will face justice,” the government
communications office stated.
The chairperson of the opposition
Oromo Federalist Congress, Merera
Gudina, told Reuters that at least 50
people were killed during the stampede
while Jawar Mohammed who is the
Executive Director of the Oromia Media
Network based in the United States
reported about 300 dead.
Among the thousands of festival
participants, a number of them
marched chanting anti-government
slogans and their arms crossed above
their heads while Ethiopian Air Force
helicopters hovered above the crowd.
AFP reports that its official on the
ground saw protesters throw stones
and bottles at security forces, who
initially fought back with sticks, and
then with tear gas causing panic with
at least 50 people falling into a ditch
while others fell into the Lake Harsadi.
This was followed by gunfire which
could not be ascertained if it was from
live bullets, AFP added.
Local media reported that the shooting
and subsequent stampede occured
immediately after ruling party officials
were booed off when they wanted to
address the crowds at the festival.
Witnesses told Africanews that a
helicopter dropped teargas on the
people while the police on the ground
fired the shots.
Graphic images posted on social media
show people lying on the ground dead
while others were being helped by the
security forces.
The Oromia region lies south of the
Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and is
the center of the Oromia protests last
year which Human Rights Watch
reported that over 400 protesters were
killed.