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Why were over 150 Ethiopians killed in a single day?

Ethiopians chant slogans against the government during a march in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, 2 October 2016.
Ethiopians chant slogans against the government during a march in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, 2 October 2016.

AP Photo

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 3 October 2016.

In response to actions by Ethiopian security forces leading to the death of more than 150 people attending the Irreecha religious and cultural celebration in the Bishoftu town in Ethiopia's Oromia region on October 2, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The deaths in Bishoftu occurred because security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at a crowd of over a million people celebrating a religious occasion,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director for Africa programs. “The government of Ethiopia should allow a truly independent body to investigate the tragedy at Bishoftu as well as security forces' well-documented record of using excessive force against peaceful gatherings.”

Background

Irreecha is an annual holiday for giving thanks, celebrated by the Oromo, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group. While firm numbers remain unavailable, eyewitnesses say that the total number of deaths on October 2 may exceed 300.

Ethiopia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2015.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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