The FCO warning can be found further down the page. 

On Sunday, up to 1.5 million people will gather in Bishoftu to celebrate the cultural festival of Irreecha. Last year, a stampede at the celebrations caused many injuries and deaths. Protest followed and a state of emergency was imposed for ten months.

Authorities have banned armed personnel from the centre of the festival this year, and have agreed that they will be confined to the outskirts of the festivities.

Human Rights Watch reports that ‘the official death toll [from the 2016 stampede] was 55 people but opposition groups estimate nearly 700 died‘, and requests for an independent investigation were denied. The organisation is concerned that, due to what they consider to be insufficient remediation by authorities, there could be a repeat of the dangerous actions by security forces.

HRW believes that the Governments’ approach to security last year was responsible for triggering the stampede:

Faced with longstanding tensions that had been greatly exacerbated by a year of brutal repression, the government attempted to play a more dominant role than in previous years with increased security presence and attempts to control who took the stage during the 2016 Irreecha. According to attendees, this prompted anger within the crowd and led some people to get on stage to lead anti-government chants. The security forces initially sought to control the crowds, using teargas. Later, witnesses described security forces firing into the crowd using live ammunition.

In several videos recorded at the scene, numerous gunshots could clearly be heard as crowds flee. Witnesses reported seeing people killed with bullet wounds.

Please click here to read more and for a link to HRW’s report ‘Fuel on the Fire: Security Force Response to the 2016 Irreecha Cultural Festival‘.

Background info

UNICEF’s report for the start of September outlines the issues caused by flooding, disease outbreaks, security clashes and a large refugee population.

FCO warning

From the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

From 26 to 27 September 2017, Meskel celebrations will take place throughout the country. Traffic will be extremely busy, and many roads will be blocked from 2pm on 26 September until midnight on 27 September. You should avoid large gatherings and be conscious of opportunist pickpockets and thieves.

On 1 October 2017, the Oromia region will celebrate Irreecha, a cultural thanksgiving festival. Last year at the largest gathering in Bishoftu (Debre Zeyit), there was a stampede which led to a number of injuries and deaths. You should avoid large gatherings. If you’re staying in the Oromia region seek information from local authorities and contacts on where celebrations are planned and exercise caution accordingly.

Tensions are raised on the border between the Somali Region and Oromia following recent local clashes in a number of locations in East and West Harerge zones, which are adjacent to Harar and Dire Dawa. There were protests in Jijiga, the capital of the Somali Region, on 13 September 2017. Road travel may be disrupted. If you’re in the area, exercise caution and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Demonstrations and violent clashes took place in the Oromia and Amhara regions in 2016. The situation has calmed considerably, but protests may occur with little warning and could turn violent. You should monitor local media, avoid large crowds, remain vigilant at all times and follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator.

from Travel Advice Summary, which can be found at:

Flooding displaces thousands

Flooding has displaced thousands of people in recent weeks. From

EXTENSIVE flooding has displaced more than 93 000 people in crisis-torn Ethiopia. The Ambeira zone in Afar region, special zones surrounding the capital Addis Ababa , Jima, South-east Shewa and South-west Shewa in the Oromia region have been worst affected by the incessant rains. It is estimated that a total of 18 628 households have been affected in the East African country.

Please click here to read more.

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