By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 2, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – Dozens of people have been killed on Sunday after a glamorous religious festival in Ethiopia’s Oromia region turned into a violent anti-government protest scene.
The incident took place as an estimated three million Ethnic Oromos converge to Bishoftu town, 40 Kilometres South of the capital, to celebrate Irrecha, a popular thanksgiving day, celebrated among the Oromo’s annually.
Since early hours of Sunday Sudan Tribune has witnessed that thousands of Oromo protesters had been chanting anti-government slogans and their arms crossed above their heads across the streets of Bishoftu.
However the religious event shortly came into chaos after a crowd of angry protesters assume towards the stage where prominent religious leaders had been addressing the gathering.
Protesters begun throwing rocks and plastic bottles and scuffle with security forces who had been blocking them from further pushing towards the stage.
But not too long, Police responded by firing tear-gas in a bid to disperse the protesters.
Police reaction led to a deadly stampede as panicked people try to flee the shocking scene with many falling and crushing into a deep ditch.
Eyewitness told Sudan Tribune that several dozens of protesters were taken to hospital after they were sprayed with tear-gas.
The Ethiopian government, later on the day acknowledged deaths during the event.
In a televised address to the public later Sunday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn confirmed that 52 people have died and many more injured during the Stampede at Irrecha Celebration.
However some opposition officials told Sudan Tribune that the death toll given by the government is far less and put the figure between 150-200.
The premier extended his condolences to the families of victims.
He promised to bring perpetrators of this tragic incident to justice and called on the Ethiopian people to stand by the government to realize the journey of Ethiopian renaissance.
The Oromia region, home for some 40 million of Ethiopia’s total 94 million populations had long been a scene of large-scale anti-government protests.
The Oromos say they are protesting against Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn government’s decades long political and economic marginalization against them.
According to Human Rights Watch report issued in June, Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 protesters and arrested tens of thousands more during widespread protests in the Oromia region since November 2015.
The rights group then urged on the Ethiopian government to support a credible, independent investigation into the killings, arbitrary arrests, and other forms of right abuses.