At least 300 people killed at Oromo festival in Debre Zeit
Nearly 300 people were killed and many more injured on Sunday when soldiers fired tear gas and shots on tens of thousands of Oromos celebrating a cultural festival in Debre Zeit, about 40 km south of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
A helicopter gunship was also reportedly involved in firing shots on the people most of whom were killed in a stampede sparked by the tear gas fired more than what the crowd could take in.
Witnesses said the people were determined to celebrate the ‘Erecha’ religious fest in a peaceful manner but the Agazi soldiers were provoking the gathering into confrontations. Others said there were also soldiers who were firing shots into the crowd. Among the victims were those who drowned in a nearby lake and others who died as they fell off a cliff.
The mayhem began when ruling party officials took over the podium along with Oromo elders and the crowd asked the officials to leave the scene.
“People booed government officials and demanded only elders should speak to the crowd,” wrote the prominent Oromo activist Jawar Mohamed on his Facebook page. “All of a sudden tear gas, machines guns bullets began to rain on people from ground soldiers and helicopters. This caused panic and stampede. People fell of the cliff into a ditch and the lake.”
At least 120 bodies were reported at Bishoftu Hospital while 175 bodies were transported to morgues in Addis, according to activist Jawar Mohamed.
Hospitals in the town were flooded with bodies and the injured.
The TPLF regime is facing a serious nationwide protest since the start of the Oromo protests almost a year ago, followed by Amhara uprisings about five months ago mainly in Gonder and Gojjam, and now spreading across the rest of the country.
The Ethiopian people are generally fed up of a bloody TPLF rule, but TPLF officials are warning that the protests may spark genocide in the country.
“Rwanda in the early 1990s plunged into genocide and then emerged and somewhat managed to rebuild itself because there were only two ethnic groups involved in the conflict,” Abai Tsehaye, a top TPLF official said on national TV recently. “In the case of Ethiopia,” he continued, “The story is quite different. Once genocide is started in this country with over 80 ethnic groups, there is no end in sight, and it is goodbye to the country.”
Worldwide protests by Ethiopians have repeatedly called on Western governments, notably the US government and European Union, to use their leverage on the TPLF regime, which is threatening the people that either they have to be obedient to its brutal rule or face the spectre of genocide and the country’s breakup.