By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, turned up in droves in the downtown of the capital city Addis Ababa on Saturday to celebrate Ireecha, an annual thanksgiving ritual.
Part of the Oromo Geda system -- a traditional socio-political governance based on age grading to assign responsibilities -- the Ireecha is a public outdoors event in which people gather together around water bodies, holding tufts of green grass to thank Waqqaa (God).
Ireecha usually happens late September -- a season in Ethiopia when the main rainy season ends and fields are filled with crops and flowers.
“Ireecha is an occasion of love, peace and unity,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in his Ireecha message.
Addis Ababa is an autonomously administered city surrounded by Special Oromia zones.
Obsu Fufa, Assefa Takele and Ajema Dejene are friends who came from Legetafo, a special Oromia zone surrounding the capital city, to celebrate the Ireecha.
“I have no words to describe my happiness for being able to join this celebration,” Fufa told Anadolu Agency. “We traveled overnight to reach here very early in the morning.”
Takele said “this is the first Ireecha celebration in 150 years in Addis Ababa, a city which Oromo people call Finfinee (water spring).”
He said it was a very joyful moment for the Oromo people in particular and all Ethiopians in general.
Ajema, for his part, described the event in Addis Ababa as a venue where the Oromo people “heaved sigh of joy” for attaining freedom.
Before April 2018 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who hailed from the Oromo ethnic group, came to power, the Oromo people felt marginalized -- a feeling that snowballed for centuries only to erupt and manifest in a three-year non-stop anti-government demonstrations that helped usher in an era of reform.
It is to be recalled that three years ago scores of people were killed in a stampede caused after security forces fired live bullets and tear gas during an Ireecha celebration in the town of Bushoftu, 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa as angry young Oromos (qeeros) demanded freedom.
Prior to April 2018, Ethiopia had been ruled for 27 years by EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), a four-party coalition dominated and manipulated by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose members claim to have been the vanguard in the 17-year old armed struggle that toppled Colonel Mengustu Hailemariam’s Marxist regime.