U.S. issues security alert for Ethiopia’s Irreecha citing chaos of 2016

Oromo people stage a protest against the government near the Hora Lake at Debre Zeyit. Photograph: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images



By Africa News

The United States Embassy in Ethiopia has issued a security message for its citizens with respect to Sunday, October 1 Irreecha festival in the Oromia region.

The September 29, 2017 statement titled ‘Security Message for U.S. citizens: Security Awareness in Oromia Region,’ cited the deadly chaos of last year as a key reason for its latest alert.

Millions of people – ethnic Oromos from across the country, around the world and tourists – are expected in the town of Bishoftu – located about 45km from Addis Ababa for the annual thanksgiving ceremony.

The chaos of last year is a major concern for rights groups and political watchers in the region. The Oromo regional authorities a week ago announced that there will be no armed personnel deployed for this year’s session.

The U.S. has in recent past issued alerts for the Oromia region but more to do with supposed ethnic clashes between people in the region and the adjoining Somali region.

The full statement from the embassy read:

“The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that, beginning on October 1 and concluding on or around October 8, the Oromia region will celebrate its annual Irreecha. Millions of attendees are expected to gather on this occasion at Lake Arsede, Bishoftu (Debre Zeit), and surrounding areas.

“Noting that at last year’s Irreecha a tragic stampede resulted in numerous deaths, and given the ongoing potential for civil unrest, the Embassy advises U.S. citizens to postpone travel to Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) and its surrounding areas until after the celebration has concluded.

“Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security,” it concluded.
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