Ethiopian government and security officials should act with restraint and take concrete steps to prevent injuries and deaths at this year’s Irreecha festival on October 1, 2017, Human Rights Watch said in a report and video released today. Many people, likely hundreds, died in a stampede at last year’s festival, triggered by security forces’ use of teargas and obstruction of exits.
The 33-page report, “‘Fuel on the Fire’: Security Force Response to the 2016 Irreecha Cultural Festival,” details the Ethiopian government’s use of force in response to restive crowds at 2016’s Irreecha. The festival, attended by massive crowds, is the most important cultural festival to Ethiopia’s 40 million ethnic Oromos, who gather to celebrate the end of the rains and welcome the harvest. Human Rights Watch found evidence that security force personnel not only triggered the stampede that caused many deaths but subsequently shot and killed some members of the crowd.