For Immediate Press Release
October 4, 2016
The Oromo American Citizens Council and its entire members are deeply saddened by the deliberate acts of killings of over 650 Oromo people who were peacefully celebrating Irreechaa at Lake Arsadee in Bishooftuu town, 40 km south of Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) in Oromia region of Ethiopia. Irreechaa is a Thanksgiving event which holds the most sacred and respected space in the Oromo nation. Every year at the end of September, more than 4 million Oromo people from different religion background, political belief, and from all corners of the country travel to Bishooftuu town to attend this event. They carry colorful flowers and grass and walk joyfully to the lake to thank the almighty creator of this Universe for peacefully transitioning the nation from the rainy season to the harvesting months. This sacred event is now candidate as being reviewed by the UNESCO to be registered as the World’s heritage.
On October 2, 2016, Close to 3 million Oromo attended the Irreechaa celebration. In the middle of the celebration, the Ethiopian regime attempted to take over and control the event by bringing ruling party officials to speak instead of the traditional and legitimate leaders of the nation, the Abbaa Gadaa. The people disapproved the ruling party’s gesture. They also started making slogans peacefully protesting against the past killings by the regime’s military since November of 2015, in which over 1000 Oromo lives were wiped out in the popular movement of Oromo protests. Following loud chanting by the attendants of the event, the Ethiopian security forces started to threw tear gas and opened fire. Military helicopter came hovering very low close to the ground. Live ammunitions were fired towards the crowed and along the tear gas, the security forces managed to push the attendants towards the ditch and into the lake. An estimated total of 650 Oromos were killed as a result of what was understood as a premeditated and intentional governmental acts. No emergency medical service was moved to the scene to help the people. After the massacre, dead bodies continued to be recovered from the ditches and the fate of those forced to run down to the lake isn’t known yet.
The Ethiopian regime attempted to blame causes of some of the deaths to stampede; but eye witnesses confirm that all acts of the government was consistent and openly understood as an attempt to evade from international responsibility. What happened in Bishooftuu is not a crime against the Oromo people, it is a crime against mankind. Nothing in the past had the country lost close to 650 innocent lives in a single day by attacks perpetrated at a sacred and most respected cultural events of any people. The atmosphere of fear and insecurity engendered by such targeting of citizens seeking celebration of Cultural Heritage of Humanity, threatens the respect for and protection of the rights of Ethiopian citizens guaranteed in Constitution.
Oromo American Citizens Council, therefore,
- Calls on inter-governmental organizations to support an international and independent investigation into the tragedy;
- Convinced that what is unfolding in Ethiopia since the last year can fit into the description of threat to peace and security in the region and also since it is not any lesser in gravity than the Burundi situation, OACC calls on the UN Security Council to start looking into the situation in Oromia;
- Calls on the U.S. Government to re-evaluate its policy towards Ethiopian government and as a result push for pending resolutions to come out in effect of dramatic transition of Ethiopia from authoritarianism to people-centered democratic governance.
- Call on the U.S. policy maker to put pressure on Ethiopian government to ensure an independent, thorough and transparent investigations into the alleged Excessive Force in Crowd Control and subsequent mass murder as well as the circumstances leading to these tragic incidents and that all those responsible are brought to justice in accordance with the African Charter and Universal Human right standard;
- Urge the Government of Ethiopia to guarantee to the families of the victims full access to justice and adequate remedies for the losses they suffered and to ensure that other human rights defenders outside of Ethiopia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights advocacy without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions to investigate the incident; and
- Further, urge Ethiopian government to give access to relevant UN and AU human rights mechanisms to conduct an independent and impartial investigation to verify the cause of the killings.
OACC is a Minnesota non-profit organization established and functioning since 2002.