Ethiopia – Oromos in crisis, closes down news – Sage Journals

Ethiopia – Oromos in crisis, closes down news – Sage Journals Oromos


(Sage Journals) — ETHIOPIA HAS BEEN in lockdown for months. There has been a state of emergency declared and there is little news coming in and out of the country.  Social media and the internet have been outlawed, religious and cultural events banned, curfews imposed. Thousands of soldiers are roaming the streets.

It escalated after security services started killing people at the annual Irreechaa festival for the Oromos in Bishoftu in October 2016 This thanksgiving celebration of the Oromos is attended by millions from across Ethiopia and the diaspora. They wear traditional clothes and sing songs of resistance. As Ethiopia declares a state of emergency, Ismail Einashe explains some of the history to the current situation

For Oromos, Irreechaa is their most significant cultural event, and even though they are evenly split between Christians and Muslims, they all share ties to the original Oromo faith, Waaqefanna.

But at this year’s festival there was a stampede and attack by the Ethiopian police. The numbers killed are disputed – the government said 52 were killed, but activists from the Oromo Federalist Congress claim 678 people died.

And since pictures of the festival goers who were killed were published internationally, the state has shut down all access to the outside world. Behind the tragedy at Irreechaa is a long history of the Ethiopian state repressing Oromos, said Dr Awol Kassim Allo, an Ethiopian lecturer at the UK’s Keele University. “What is going on now in Oromia is a massacre in the name of emergency, terrorising civilian populations to force them into capitulation,” he said.

What is going on now in Oromia is a massacre in the name of emergency, terrorising civilian populations

He added: “The massacre at Irreechaa occurred before the state of emergency, although Ethiopia has always been under a state of emergency, the official declaration of emergency was a conclusive evidence that the state was losing control and that a large segment of the society has rejected the government’s authority to govern”.

Celebrating their traditions and wearing traditional dress, as the Oromos were doing at Irreechaa, has historically been part of the resistance to the government in Ethiopia, according to Mohammed Ademo, founder and editor of, a multimedia news site focused on Ethiopia’s Oromo community, and now based in the USA.

Recently, many Oromos have begun to eschew Western attire completely and wear Oromo clothes. Oromo clothing has been more visible on the streets. This way of dressing is becoming a cornerstone of their identity and self- expression.

Traditional Oromo clothes consist of woya for men, which are toga-like robes, usually white, and a skirt called a wandabo for women. Oromo women also wear qollo and sadetta, cotton cloths traditionally hand-spun and hand-woven, and sometimes other garments are worn such as leather or animal skin robes.

On Facebook there are numerous groups now dedicated to dissecting the latest fashion styles of Oromo dress and there are popular style blogs that enjoy a huge following. Latest pop hits by Oromo artists heavily feature Oromo clothes – along with dances.

Peri Klemm, a professor in African history of art at the University of California at San Diego and expert on Oromo dress, said: “At times when identity is threatened, dress, particularly that of Oromo women who have always been the carriers of culture, becomes a way in which the Oromo maintain a sense of who they are.”

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