The annual Errecha celebrations should be a time to indulge in cultural appreciation, while focusing on hope, peace and stability across the nation. There should be no room for politics to enter the fray. This year's celebrations will go down in history as a very dark day for Ethiopia, after several people lost their lives following a stampede triggered by political disagreements.

Some 47km south of Addis Abeba at the bottom of Mt. Ziquala, on top of which one finds a small creator lake, we find Bishoftu town. This little town, being surrounded by lakes, has a long history of its own as one of the off springs of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway Line – Emperor Menelik’s legacy that opened up Ethiopia to the outside world.

With Bishoftu being the closest resort to Addis Abeba, with several lakes, Emperor Haile Selassie I often made it a weekend resort. Bishoftu had also been a cultural centre for the annual grand celebration of the Irrecha ritual convention, attended by thousands and thousands of people each year.

The number of participants has over the years grown by leaps and bounds. Last Sunday’s Irrecha had taken a special colour and heat, which had been ignited since the nocturnal hours of the eve.

As daylight broke, and much earlier than the ritual celebrations were ceremoniously started with the blessing of the Aba Geda, a special street run took place. No less than 23 clubs sent participating members from as far as Debre Birhan, in the Amhara region, to take part.

Girls in good numbers were given the honours to take the forefront, leading the procession, singing the songs of the day, while young men behind them repeated the chorus, rhythmically beating and clapping. The sound reverberated and the echoes were heard from one group to another, creating an air of joy felt by all welcoming the new year with some glimmer of hope for peace and tranquillity throughout the country.

A Helicopter flew overhead and shuttled back and forth, spreading welcoming wishes and messages.

The Irrecha ceremony has nothing to do with indoctrinations of any sort of political ideology. It has had its own cultural practices to be exercised based on the basic essence of giving due thanks to the creator and praying for the year that has just set in weeks ago. The occasion has nothing else to subscribe to. The Irrecha does not need whistle blowers or ribbon cutters to declare it open. Nor does the Aba Geda need any hammering on a table to announce the opening and closing sessions of the gathering.

It is the Aba Geda who has to perform this as part of the ceremony. He doesn’t have to hoist or wave any other flag or emblem other than the Oromo Geda symbol. No one is entitled to make it a political venue. Overriding these cultural values is nothing short of disrespectful to the age-old cultural practices.

There were people who could not allow themselves to be too tolerant as to stand there and watch intruders tramp over their ethnic rights. The intruders had surpassed the red line.

The Aba Geda could not proceed with their ritual responsibilities. All the efforts being made currently to have the Irrecha as one of the intangible heritages to be recognised by UNESCO were suddenly being put to test before it even could live through this year’s tumultuous celebrations.

What Bishoftu was engaged in was how it could be able to host the huge number of guests it has never before hosted. Many said it could range from one to four million. In terms of domestic tourism annual growth prospect, whether or not registered by UNESCO, the positive gains are vivid and objective as to need any quantification of any level. But it goes without saying that preparations for such colossal events are prerequisites. Red Cross Aid Ambulances and Frist Aid Camps, stand by medical personnel, among others, are to be considered.

Differences have to be respected and made our source of beauty and strength. That, simply put, is what democracy is all about. We are all transient beings. But history is to judge our deeds we try to carry out for our country.

I pay my tributes to all Ethiopians over what happened last Sunday, which may go down as “Black Irrecha” in the history books. Will this be the last time the government will ever declare a National Mourning day?

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Oct 11,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 858]



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