‘Flashpoint’ Festival Looms in Ethiopia

By Nizar Manek, 19 September

  • Scores of people died in stampede at cultural event last year
  • Human Rights Watch says security forces’ actions caused panic

(Bloomberg) --
Ethiopian authorities should exercise restraint at a festival held by the country’s largest ethnic group in October, after security forces at last year’s event triggered a fatal stampede by using teargas and discharging firearms on protesters, Human Rights Watch said.
Scores of people -- possibly hundreds -- died at the Irreecha festival on Oct. 2, 2016, from falling into a deep trench, being trampled or shot after the government responded to unrest with force, the New York-based advocacy group said Tuesday in a report, citing witnesses and video footage. Ethiopian authorities at the time said that at least 55 died, either crushed or drowned in ditches and shallow waters, and that no one was shot. Irreecha, a major event for the Horn of African country’s about 40 million Oromo people, is held in Bishoftu city, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa.
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