Moving Beyond the Trauma of October 2, 2016 Irreecha Massacre – Part I

Published by Staff Editor on

25 September 2017

October 2 Will Signify State Terrorism Against the Oromo in Ethiopia

By Mekuria Bulcha, Professor


In Oromo history 2016 was one of the darkest years. Sequences of traumatic events followed each other from day to day, week to week and month to month as the Oromo uprising which had started in Ginchi in November 2015 spread across Oromia like wildfire and persisted vigorously as the number of participants in the numerous demonstrations swelled into millions. Although the protests were mostly peaceful, the first eight months of 2016 witnessed the massacre of hundreds of Oromo youth. Parents witnessed as their children were gunned down by the special forces of the regime called the Agazi, in their homes. Pregnant mothers and elderly Oromos above the age 70 and children under the age of 10 were among the victims. The impunity with which the Ethiopian regime is [was] treating the Oromo people was made clear by the brutal crackdown when hundreds of the Oromos were killed at the Irreecha festival on October 2, 2016, near Bishoftu.

Totalitarian regimes are notorious for their denial of the crimes they commit. The Ethiopian regime is not an exception. The first objective of this article is to explore and define the nature and expressions of state terrorism perpetrated against the Oromo and other peoples by the current Ethiopian regime. The article revisits and discusses the brutal crackdown at the Irreecha festival on October 2, 2016, and the controversial circumstances which led to the crackdown at the festival. It will review briefly the steps taken by the regime to control the festival, its failure to gain Oromo trust, the vicious mass massacre it perpetrated on the participants of the festival, and the explanation it gave for its actions. The second objective of the article is to assess the trauma and anger which the massacre had caused, the manner with which the Oromo society has been handling the trauma anger, and the dynamic role in national mobilization and resistance. The third objective of the article is to give a brief exploration of the consequences of the State of Emergency declared by the TPLF regime on October 9, 2016. It is important to note here that the objective of the Irreecha massacre was to stop the Oromo protests and silence their demands. However, the massacre did not achieve its goals. Consequently, a week after the Irreecha massacre, the regime declared a six-month-long State of Emergency or a de facto military rule. The State of Emergency was extended later by four months and lasted until August 2017. In its conclusion, the article will shed light on the evolution of state terrorism under the TPLF regime as a doctrine that aims at the destruction of Oromo nationalism. The article stresses the obligation of the international community to investigate the mass killings perpetrated on the Oromo participants of the Irreecha festival and on others on different occasions by the Ethiopian security forces.

Expressions of state terrorism in Ethiopia

Talking about the Ethiopian regime’s declaration of the State of Emergency in October 2016, the Nigerian journalist Adeola Fayehun has characterized the behavior and acts of the current Ethiopian regime as expressions of “fascism” and “Nazism”.[1] Fayehun was repulsed not only by the reported crackdown on the civilian population in Ethiopia, but also by the “training in good conduct”, an explanation, which the Ethiopian regime gave for putting in jail tens of thousands of Oromos and others. What Fayehun described in her TV show is a state terrorism of which fascism and Nazism were historically notorious examples. In this article, I will conceptualize state terrorism and discuss the violence of the TPLF regime against the Oromo people.

Generally, terrorism is equated with violent crimes that are committed by non-state actors such as Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab and the Islamic State (IS). Most often, revenge or change of government is the aim of this category of terrorists. The aim of state terrorism is the opposite. It is a well-known fact that many states are ruled by regimes who use violence to terrorize citizens or subjects to obtain their consent and sustain their rule. These are regimes who use state terrorism to stay in power. The current Ethiopian regime is a good example. Following Max Weber, sociologists identify power as being either authoritative or coercive. Dictatorial regimes abuse “coercive” power, which, normally is the prerogative of state institutions to maintain law and order. Authoritative power is legitimate and effective because it is exercised within the rule of law or with the consent of the society. It is corrective and protective. Non-authoritative coercive power is the direct opposite; it is not authorized by the society but is exercised against the society itself. History offers notorious examples of state terrorism such as the Red Terror of USSR under Stalin, the Cultural Revolution in China under Mao, and the Red Terror in Ethiopia under Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam which had caused immense human suffering and death. State terrorism is perpetrated indiscriminately against innocent populations to inculcate fear, subjugate and control them. It targets political opponents: bans their political organizations, and imprisons, kills or exiles their members. In democracies, the state has the prerogative to use “coercive” power only to maintain law and order, but possesses no power to restrict the political activities of citizens outside the limits of the rule of law. In short, state terrorism pertains to abusive use of force by those who hold political power.

State terrorism to quash legitimate Oromo demands

There are observers who have attempted to provide an explanation for the TPLF-led regime’s vicious brutality against the Oromo. For example, a scholar of Oromo and Ethiopian affairs, the German sociologist Siegfried Pausewang, who saw the source of TPLF atrocities as a challenge posed by Oromo demography to Tigrayan power, had remarked that

The Tigrayans …have some reasons to fear the Oromo. They are not more than 7 percent of the Ethiopian population, but the TPLF controls at present the levers of government. They must be particularly concerned to prevent the much larger Oromo from conquering such powers – be it through democratic elections or through other means.[2]

Explaining the consequences of this policy Pausewang wrote, “Oromia is the region with most political prisoners, and most human rights violations, torture in prison, and even disappearances.” He pointed out that the federal structure introduced in 1991 “has not been able to soothe the trauma the Oromo suffered after a century of Amhara domination, dispossession and relegation to the status of landless serfs or tenants, and suppression of their language and culture.”[3] In other words, although the Ethiopian constitution grants them the right to property, language and culture, these rights are not respected by the regime.

In fact, the violation of the Oromo rights is today worse than when Pausewang made the comments cited above. The deterioration started with the intensification of the persecution of Oromo youth in 2014 in relation to Oromia-wide protests against the so-called Addis Ababa Master Plan. The protests were intensified in November 2015 and have engulfed the entire Oromo country. The regime did not move an inch to meet the Oromo demands. Instead, it used brutal violence to silence the protests killing hundreds of students and imprisoning thousands of them. State terrorism was stepped-up in the beginning of 2016. However, more repression triggered more activism and swelled the number of protesters who joined numerous demonstrations which were held repeatedly across Oromia.

As the protests continued, the government made a concession in mid-January 2016 and announced the cancellation of the Master Plan. But, by then the Oromo grievances had widened because of government brutality and the high death toll and mass arrests inflicted on the Oromo population at large. The response of the Ethiopian regime to increased Oromo demands was a draconian martial law. Oromia was sub-divided into eight military zones, each headed by a general. The generals reported to a “command post” which was led by the Prime Minister and includes the chiefs of the armed forces, intelligence and federal police. In a report based on an extensive research conducted in Ethiopia and published in 2009, the International Crisis Group has indicated that the “federal police and the security organs operated largely independently of local authorities” and that, in Oromiya the “Tigrayan security and intelligence personnel were felt to operate like a ‘state within a state.”[4] By the end of February 2016 Oromia was put under total TPLF administration. The threat to Oromo life and property has become worse than ever before.

State terrorism “killed” fear in Oromia in 2016

The state terrorism which is being conducted by the TPLF did not achieve the intended objectives – create fear and elicit involuntary acquiescence to the regime’s policies. The brutality of the Agazi, TPLF militia, and federal police did not contain the Oromo protests; when they killed pregnant women, small children under ten and elders over 70 years old to terrorize the Oromo, they also killed fear. The masses confronted the police instead of fleeing or subsiding into passivity. As farmers and other community members joined the protesting students, the struggle over Finfinnee snowballed into a struggle for Oromia adding broader historical and political demands shared by the Oromo nation as a whole. Consequently, as I have argued in an article of which was published in two parts in May and June 2014,[5] the struggle for Finfinnee overlapped with the struggle for Oromia. Ignited first by the question over [the expansion of] Finfinnee, the Oromo demand expanded to control over their own homeland and the removal of Tigrayan army and police from their cities, towns, and villages. They resolved, as long as TPLF domination is going on, we cannot say “we are alive”. This does not mean the Oromo are desperate but determined to defend themselves. This is particularly the case with the qeerroo, the Oromo youth who are vanguard of the Oromo revolution.

As I have described in an article published in May 2016 in Oromia Today[6] the protests which started to address Oromo eviction from Finfinnee in 2014 developed gradually into a revolution which demanded a solution for the root cause of the problem: the conquest and occupation of Oromia by the Abyssinia state. On August 6, 2016, the Oromo youth organized demonstrations simultaneously in over 200 Oromo cities and towns including Finfinnee (Addis Ababa). The Human Rights Watch reported that at least 500 instances of demonstrations took place across Oromia in 2016.[7] As streams of protesting masses marched in every city, town and even remote villages across Oromia for months, the multitudes of events that were taking place in different places, often in tandem but on different days and weeks up to October 9, 2016, the date the State of Emergency was declared by the TPLF regime, became a single pulsating episode. In short, it looked like the entire Oromo nation was on one and the same peaceful mega protest march for almost a year. That is why I think the proper term that defines the event is “revolution”. In September, a week-long market boycott in which farmers and businessmen and women were the main participants was conducted throughout Oromia. The exception was Finfinnee. The timing of the boycott coincided with the Ethiopian New Year when plenty of consumer goods are bought and sold. Although expert assessment is unavailable, one can hardly deny the fact that the boycott had negative consequences on the overall Ethiopian economy.

In most of the places, the peaceful protests were met by deadly state violence. The concentration of the red spots on the map on the right above indicate the intensity of state violence sites where civilians were killed, injured and imprisoned in thousands in 2016. The blue dots represent the sites of popular protests. As indicated on the map, violence by the security forces was not confined to Oromia, but it seems that over 98 percent of the incidents took place in Oromia. HRW wrote that the “security forces repeatedly used lethal force, including live ammunition, to break up many of the 500 reported protests.”[8] According to another source, a total of 1855 persons were killed between November 2015 and October 2016 in Oromia.[9] Triggered by opposition to the annexing of Welkayit district to the Tigray state, protests also started in July 2016, in Gondar in the Amhara state and over 233 persons were killed in this state during the second half of 2016. Similarly, in Konso and Gedeo districts of the Southern Nation and Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) state dozens of protesters were killed. In its 2016 annual report on Ethiopia, Amnesty International (AI) writes that the Ethiopian government had been increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices, used anti-terror laws and a state of emergency to crack down on journalists, human rights defenders, the political opposition and, in particular, protesters who have been met with excessive and lethal force. As far as I know, the Irreecha massacre was one of the grimmest episodes and October 2, 2016 one of the darkest dates in the history of the Oromo nation.

A grim manifestation of the TPLF-led state terrorism

In an article, titled “What We Had, What was Taken from Us, What We Will Reclaim: The Oromo Irreecha Festival Revisited and Reinterpreted,”[10] I wrote,

As we look forward to the great annual Irreecha festival, the enormous tragedy happening in Oromia is our greatest concern. The 2016 Irreecha festival is taking place in total absence of security in Oromia. But that seems not to stop the Oromo people who have defeated fear long ago and are ready to participate in the spiritually rejuvenating festival.

Prompted by what I had feared might happen and mentioning some of the crimes which the regime had committed since November 2015, I added, “as we all know the ruling Tigrayan elite are nervous than ever before… the possibility of their irrational interference is very high. There is no moral boundary they will not cross to harm their enemies, particularly the Oromo.” Regrettably, that is what they did in less than 24 hours after the publication of my article.

It is no news that the current Ethiopian regime has been at war with the Oromo people since it came to power in 1991. What is generally unknown is, however, the fact that its repression against the Oromo has been transforming into state terrorism in tandem with the intensification of Oromo protests which were ignited by the infamous Addis Ababa Master Plan which was declared in April 2014. The protests continued with land grabbing in the rest of Oromia. One of the affected places was the small town of Ginchi, 80 km west of Finfinnee (Addis Ababa). The authorities not only sold the ancient Chilimo forest in its outskirts to a timber logging firm, but also public land including the town’s football field to real estate developers. The decision “triggered protests in at least 400 different locations across all the 17 zones in Oromia.”[11]

Reacting to these protests, the regime used excessive violence to shore-up its declining authority killing over 500 and imprisoning tens of thousands of Oromos. This added more fuel to the conflict and the Oromo youth continued their protests with increased determination. Although the regime dropped the Master Plan in January 2016, it continued killing Oromo youth and arresting arbitrarily and imprisoning Oromo politicians and ordinary citizens at large. What the scenario described here reflects is a regime whose authority is faltering at home and its image damaged abroad by the gross violation of human rights against its citizens.

Traditionally, the Irreecha rituals were organized and conducted by an Oromo council of elders called Abba Gadaas. Therefore, in a statement issued prior to the festival, the council of elders, which has the legitimate authority to organize the Irreecha festival, appealed to the regime to restrain from interfering in it. But that was not what the regime was ready to accept. It ignored the elders’ appeal and went on to implement its own plans for the event. Contrary to the elders’ wishes, the regime had very strong urge for organizing and using the popularity of the festival as an image repairing project.

The attempt to use the festival against the advice of the elders’ council was met by a huge peaceful protest on October 2 at the festival site. The regime responded in the only way it knows, which is use of violence. The foreign guests and journalists who were invited to attend the festival, were asked to leave and a brutal crackdown on the festival goers followed. Ironically, while the TPLF regime was massacring Irreecha festival participants UNESCO was recognizing the festival as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016. The regime blamed “anti-peace forces” for the tragedy, but rejected the call made by international organizations including the UN Human Rights Commission and the European Union for an immediate independent investigation into the matter. Regarding the reason for the rejection of independent investigation, the Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn told a BBC journalist that “Ethiopia is an independent country, it does not allow independent investigators.” That a state which is not only a signatory to the UN Human Rights Convention but also a member of the UN Human Rights Council and UN Security Council at the time can say that and go on with violation of human rights is mind-boggling.

Caption: Easter Mass (The Vatican), Irreecha (Bishoftu, Oromia), and The Hajj (Mecca, Saudi Arabia)

Teargas and bullets against the largest religious gathering in Africa

The Bishoftu Irreecha (Thanksgiving) is the largest human gatherings in Africa. Over two million people attended it on October 2, 2016. The event normally attract three to five million people, which is comparable to the Hajj in Mecca and Easter Mass at the St. Peter Square in the Vatican not only in the size of its participants but also sanctity of its purpose. Although the security forces of the current Ethiopian regime are known for their brutality against citizens, the impunity of their actions on October 2, 2016, at the Irreecha festival was beyond imagination. They fired teargas and live bullets on the Irreecha gathering and turned a sacred place into a valley of death. The traumatic horror they caused was felt not only by those who were at the festival site, but also by millions of Oromos who were watching and emotionally participating in the event online from afar, or saw the video footages afterwards. Instead of its traditional ingredients of prayers and blessings by elders and the songs of artists, the air was filled with the sounds of gunfire and the desperate woes of men and women who were trying to save their lives. Hitherto, the festival was associated with peace and thanksgiving to God and was a sacred rendezvous for the different branch of the Oromo nation. As a foreign journalist who visited the festival in 2014 stated “the Irreecha is a sort of family gathering.” Hora Arsadee is a site and the Irreecha festival an event for making peace with God, humans and nature. But on October 2, 2016, the sacred lakeside site was transformed into an arena for sheer violence against human beings and an occasion on which hundreds of Oromos were massacred. Many Oromo families lost two to four members each in the incident. What was captured by smartphone cameras and transmitted worldwide on that day was a mixture of gun sounds, desperate voices and sight of mud-covered and anguished human faces who were trying to pull themselves out of the bush-covered abyss seemed to online spectators to be scenes from a nightmare and were deeply shocking. An event traumatizes a collectivity when it is extraordinary, unforeseen, and triggers emotional response. The crackdown on the Irreecha festival by the Ethiopian security forces was such an event to most Oromos.

The tragedy and the denial

Since the direct consequences of the attack on the Irreecha festival are well known, I will not dwell on them but proceed with some of the controversies concerning the massacre of the festival participants. As exposed by social media from the site, the regime’s reaction to the undeniably protesting but essentially peaceful crowd was deadly. Using gunmen positioned on “strategic points” on the ground and an Air Force helicopter from above, the Ethiopian security forces showered teargas on the crowd. As the tear gas caused nausea, the celebrants tried to leave the festival site as quickly as possible. But the security forces fired live bullets into the air forcing them to run toward the edge of a precipice from which many fell into a deep ravine or the lake located nearby and died or drowned.

The immediate reaction of the regime was denial of its security forces’ involvement in causing the catastrophe. In a speech he gave to the Ethiopian TV on the Irreecha tragedy, the Prime Minister thanked the security forces for the exemplary ‘care’ with which they had conducted their duties of ‘keeping of law and order’ in a democracy. But what was seen at the Irreecha festival on October 2, 2016, was not the rule of law in practice. Live video footages from the incident show that the police started shooting a few minutes after the celebrants started a loud but peaceful protest. They shot barrages of teargas into the crowd. It is also reported that canisters of the asphyxiating gas was dropped on the festal from a helicopter. Those who gave order to the security forces to carry out the crackdown on the festival cannot be oblivious to the fact that people will try to get away as quickly as possible when exposed to teargas and live bullets. Obviously, they cannot be ignorant of the fact that the consequences of the flight of hundreds of thousands of people from danger through a narrow exit will be disastrous. The security forces were acting like terrorists with an aim to perpetrate the greatest harm possible on innocent people. A festival participant told the Addis Standard that the people “were fleeing from the police the entity they know that will take their lives from experience.” Unfortunately, the flight did not help hundreds of celebrants to save their lives. Blinded by teargas and hurried by live bullets flying over their heads they run into the bushes, fell into deep ravine or the lake and lost their lives. Many incurred severe injuries.

According to the Prime Minister, the victims of the Irreecha incident were 52 dead, and the injured were also about the same number. Gross underestimation hides the enormity of the tragedy while making the true information, which might be given by other sources look like gross exaggeration and doubtful to the public. This is a policy which had been successfully used by the Abyssinian ruling elite to distort the truth that would affect their interest. Unfortunately, journalists often “rely” on Ethiopian government authorities for information still today. This is also the case with Irreecha massacre, and the figure which is cited by some journalists and commentators still today is 52 dead and as many injured. However, other sources have given much higher figures, at least ten times higher than the official government figures. According to Mulatu Gamachu, the Secretary of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFCO), the number of the victims was 678 dead and several hundreds injured. Some sources have estimated that as many as a thousand people had lost their lives in the incident. The regime did not update the figure it gave on October 3, a day after the incident. Consequently, there is no information about the exact number of men, women and children who were killed or injured.

Another controversial issue about the tragic incident is the “cause” of mass death. According to the regime, a sudden stampede by the celebrants was the cause of the tragedy. By and large the media has accepted the words of the regime for truth. However, the use of the term ‘stampede’ by mass media is regrettable for two reasons: first, the term is normally associated with the mindless rush of panic-stricken animals. Its application to human behavior is offensive: it implies inanity. Indeed, live video footages from the festival show participants fleeing from the teargas and live bullets fired at them. But, what we see in the videos is not mindless behavior of herds of animals in panic but of rational humans who were reacting in the threatening circumstances in different ways. The videos show many participants who were taking pictures and bravely recording the incidents amid the chaos, and those who were helping the injured and pulling out those who fell into the ravine. My second objection concerns the distortion it involves; explaining the mass death with the term “stampede” is tantamount to blaming the victims for their own death while playing down the role of the regime and its security forces in causing it.

To divert attention from the crime committed by its security forces the regime’s narrative about incident at the festival site has been an adamant denial. According to the Prime Minister, the police did not fire a single bullet and that the regime had nothing to do with the death of victims. But millions of people who saw video footages of the event heard gun fires during crackdown. He did not explain the source of the gunfire. In addition, as pointed out by many participants, the assertion that a single bullet was not fired is not true, but since no forensic investigation was conducted, the controversy over whether death was caused by bullets fired by security agents is not resolved. With denial the obvious and its refusal of independent investigation, the regime is apparently hiding its own role in the disaster to evade responsibility. However, even what the Prime Minister and his Communication Minster said were true, that does not free the regime from the heinous crime. There is no doubt that the harms suffered by the Irreecha celebrants including death were the results of state terrorism. The US Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms defines terrorism as “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” As one of the survivors of Irreecha massacre said “If government representatives had refrained from turning the stage into a political capital, there would have been no violence at all. As such in one way or another, the government must be held accountable for the deaths.”[13] A person who witnessed the “horrific” consequences of the crackdown in a hospital in Bishoftu told the VOA on October 2, 2016 that

The hospital compound and tents are filled with bodies of people and that “There are people on the verge of death and there are some people getting medical attention, but I don’t think they will make it. The cause of the deaths is the beating of people by the security forces. They used tear gas and used weapons.

Many other survivors also associated the tragedy with the presence of the heavily armed forces and military helicopters hovering in the air. Some of the eyewitnesses suggest that there were sinister intentions behind their strategic positioning in and around the festival site contributed to the tragedy. According to a regular Irreecha celebrant, in the past, the police were deployed along the edges of the bushes between the square where the celebrants gather and the lake. The position held by armed units during the 2016 festival was on the opposite side. The celebrants were between the lake and bush-covered deep ravine, the existence of which was known to the police, but apparently not to them. There is only one narrow entry and exit road on the side of the deep ravine. The police bombarded the festival with teargas while barring the wider exit from the festival grounds and pushing masses of celebrants toward the concealed ravine. The question is “What was the intention of pushing them in that direction?” Many of the participants believe that the action of the security forces can hardly be anything else than a blatant act of terrorism. They suspected sinister intentions to lie behind the “negligence” of the security to barricade the ravine. In other words as an eyewitness put it,

This [negligence] suggests that the military strategically devised the scheme knowing full well that those who run away to escape bullets being fired from behind would be finished in the gorge and ditches. This is why many in the country and those of us who were there believe the Irreechaa massacre was deliberately executed.

Blaming the incident on “anti-peace forces”, Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn stated that the security forces had done their duties properly. Festival participants disagree with his words. They say that “provocative elements” were planted among the celebrants by his regime’s security organs and that they were the ones who were responsible for the stones thrown onto the stage whereupon the police started shooting indiscriminately at the Irreecha celebrants. However, whatever the case might have been, “the police should have abstained from firing live ammunition and teargas in the presence of a crowd of millions.”[14] He mentioned “anti-peace forces” but did not say whether the Ethiopian police had arrested any of them. Unfortunately, no journalist had asked the Ethiopian Prime Minister for an explanation regarding these issues or had attempted to ascertain the true cause of the tragedy. As indicated above, his statement, which presented the cause of the death of hundreds of the Irreecha celebrants as a “stampede”, was cited by local and international media without verification. Furthermore, neither was the nature of the violation of law and order that prompted the crackdown, nor the immorality of terrorizing millions of men, women and children with barrages of teargas and live bullets were raised and critiqued in any of the news reports anywhere.

Fortunately, however, the failure of mainstream media did not hide the crime that was committed at the Irreecha festival from public attention. As we all know, the power dictatorships had to restrict public access to the truth in the past is greatly undermined by social media today. Consequently, video footages from the Irreecha massacre were spread by Facebook users exposing the truth before the official fabrications reached the public through mainstream media outlets. Thus, the statement made by the Ethiopian Prime Minister revealed nothing except his regime’s abortive attempt to get away unmarked with the crime it had committed. His denial of guilt made the Oromo angrier than they ever been before the event. His regime’s position became more spiteful in Oromo people’s perception than what it already was with the erection of a monument in the memory of the October 2 victims.

The Monument of Distortion and Denial

Totalitarian regimes are notorious for their denial of the atrocities they commit against innocent people, but it is farcical when a regime erects a memorial monument to those it had massacred. Ironically this is what the EPRDF regime has done when it raised a statue in August 2017 on the Bishoftu Irreecha grounds. There are two odd issues concerning the monument. The first is the use of the phrase “sudden death” in the inscription which reads, “Memorial Monument for those Who Lost their Life on a Sudden death During Irreecha Celebration at Hora Harsadi on Oct. 2, 2016” to describe the incident. An anonymous Oromo blogger raises the question about the use of the term and explains adeptly the denial the farcical monument expresses in following verses.

Kun Tasaa? Is this sudden?

Kaan rasaasaan fixxee with bullets you killed them
Kaan bowwatti naxxee you drove them into a ravine
Boolla qottee qopheessitee it is you who dug the ravine
Rophilaan irra balaliitee then you flew an aircraft over them
Aara itti roobsitee, and you rained smoke/gas on them
Ammammoo “tasa” jettee? Do you say that death was “sudden”?

The second question is, in whose memory exactly is the monument erected? As mentioned above, the regime says that the victims of the Irreecha massacre were only 52 when the number of celebrants who died is said to be over 600. Since no number and names are mentioned one wonders whether the monument was raised in the memory of 52 acknowledge victims or not. If so where are their names? While it is necessary to point clearly out the cause of their death the monument ought to bear also the names of the victims it commemorates. As it is the monument does not commemorate the victims of the massacre; it denies the truth about their death.

In short, by raising the monument, the TPLF-led regime is not commemorating the victims but calling on the Oromo to absolve the victimizers from their crime. To accept the monument is to condone the crime perpetrated against the victims of the Irreecha massacre. I have no doubt the Oromo will build a proper monument when the time arrives. The October 2, 2016 massacre of the Oromo on their holy day and sacred grounds, which as I will discuss in next part of this article, has caused a national trauma, is worthy of a proper monument and a museum.


[1] Adeola Fayehun, “Ethiopia State of Emergency: TPLF Resorts to Control Citizens”, January 9, 2017.

[2]Siegfried Pausewang “The Oromo between the Past and the Future. Introduction”, in Exploring New Political Alternatives for the Oromo in Ethiopia, in S. Pausewang (ed.), CMI, Report 6, 2009, p. 7.

[3] Sigfried Pausewang, “The Oromo between past and future: Introduction”, in Pausewang, S. (ed.), Exploring New Political Alternatives for the Oromo in Ethiopia: Report from Oromo Workshop and its after-effects, Bergen: Chr. Mischelsen Institute, CMI, 2009, p. 2.

[4] International Crisis Group, Ethiopia: Federalism and Its Discontents, ICG Africa Report No. 153, 2009, p. 16

[5] See Mekuria Bulcha, “The Struggle over Finfinnee is a Struggle for Oromia”,, or May 26, 2014 and June 1, 2014.

[6] Mekuria Bulcha, “From a Student Movement to a National Revolution: A Struggle with an Independent Oromo State In Sight”, Oromia Today, May 7, 2016

[7] “Such a Brutal Crackdown”: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests”, June 16, 2016

[8] HRW (Human Rights Watch). “Such a Brutal Crackdown”: Killings and Arrests in Response to Ethiopia’s Oromo Protests”, June 16, 2016

[9] Tarekegn Chimidi, “Genocide in the making in Oromia: Brief account on the Oromo protest from Nov. 2015 – Nov. 2016”,, November 13, 2016.

[10] Mekuria Bulcha, “The Oromo Irreecha Festival Revisited and Reinterpreted,” Oromia Today, October 2, 2016.

[11] HRW (Human Rights Watch). “Such a Brutal Crackdown”, June 16, 2016

[12] See Mekuria Bulcha, “Oromia’s Irreecha Festival – A Revival of an Ancient African Culture – An Attempt to Understand and Explain”,, 2015, for the ruling norms and participants’ code of conduct at the festival

[13] Bekel Atomsa Boru, “A survivor’s account”, Addis Standard, October 2016, p. 9.

[14] Ibid.

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1 Comment

hlO2hp · 2017-12-01 at 00:36

628473 242476Thankyou for all your efforts which you have put in this. really fascinating information . 916545

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