(OPride)―Millions of Oromo people celebrated the annual Irreecha festival on Oct. 1 at Lake Arsadi in Bishoftu, a resort town in central Oromia, Ethiopia’s populous state. The event took place in an increasingly tense political environment. To avoid repeat of the 2016 tragedy, where security forces triggered a deadly stampede that left hundreds dead, armed security forces were banned from the site of Irreecha. The proceedings went smoothly and colorfully.
The peaceful completion of the event reaffirmed the Oromo people’s defiance, determination and unity in the face of openly hostile central leaders who refuse to implement the constitutional guarantees of self-rule. The following social media images highlighted the profound and fast changing political winds in Ethiopia. (Please click on individual images to enlarge.)
1. The defiant Qubee generation has defeated fear and appear to be sending a clear message to Ethiopia’s authoritarian rulers: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
2. A year ago Ethiopia declared a state of emergency to squash then-year-long Oromo protests. The decree was lifted 10 months later in August 2017 but the protesters key demands remain unaddressed. The street protests may have subsided for now but the widespread discontents persist. Irreecha attendees made sure that that message was clear to Ethiopia’s rulers and anyone paying attention. Photos show demonstrators flashing the Oromo protest gesture and holding up photos of jailed Oromo opposition leader, Bekele Gerba.
3. The Oromia state police’s professionalism, joyful spirit and commitment to peaceful and orderly conclusion of the event was one of the more remarkable highlights from Irreecha 2017. It also underscored the irreversible demographic and socio-political shift sweeping across Oromia and Ethiopia.
In few of the photos below, members of the Oromia police sing and dance with star Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, whose revolutionary songs are banned from state-run media outlets. It’s unclear which of his songs the police and youth were dancing to, but the sight of such cordial police-community relations was unprecedented and encouraging. By the look of it, most of the police officers are members of Haacaaluu’s gallant Qubee generation. They are more likely to share his hopes, dreams, lived experiences, and aspirations for future, which he so beautifully articulates in his songs.
I’ve spent the day talking to friends who attended Irreecha in Bishoftu. I asked how was it and they said “we felt so free” ?
— Ayana?️ (@DiasporicLife) October 1, 2017
This is what being free looks like: