More than 50 people die in stampede at festival near Addis Ababa

Injured protesters after stampede at Irrecha festival in Bishoftu, Oromia region Injured protesters after stampede at Irrecha festival in Bishoftu, Oromia region REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

8 October 2016
At least 50 people died and many more were injured during the annual celebrations of the Irrecha festival in the Oromia region, after police fired teargas to disperse anti-government protesters, causing panic and triggering a stampede.

This is only the latest in a series of brutal incidents reflecting the escalation of violence that the country has been experiencing in the last year. The wave of protests was initially sparked by the government’s development plan into the Oromia region, a drawback for local farmers. Despite the plan being withdrawn, the concerns of the Oromo community, the country’s largest ethnic group, continued and extended to issues of political and economic marginalization. The situation got worse due to several occurrences of arbitrary arrests and the excessive use of force against largely peaceful protests.

Back in June this year, Human Rights Watch had published a report based on more than 125 interviews with witnesses, victims and government officials. The report condemns the brutal responses and outright human rights abuse of the security forces, which include rape, torture and ill-treatment of detainees. Access to education is currently disrupted due to the arrest of a number of students and staff or simply because students are afraid to go to class. Besides this, the government has restricted media freedom and access to information in Oromia. Human Rights Watch has urged the international community to provide a strong and united response.


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