Ethiopia: Timkat colorfully celebrated except in Harar where there was a clash

Timkat Celebration was halted by Qeerroos in Harar, South Eastern Ethiopia. Merera Gudina claims Branch of his party’s office in the city was attacked

Ketera Gondar _ Timkat
Ketera celebration in Gondar. Source : AMMA

January 20, 2020

Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have colorfully celebrated Timkat, Epiphany across Ethiopia. Based on citizen reports emerging in social media and from video footage circulating, it appears this year appears as if it was one of the best celebrations.

But it was not without a problem. In Gondar, a city with a reputation for best Timket celebration that attracts tens of thousands of tourists, an accident in the middle of the celebration claimed about 12 lives and over a hundred people have sustained an injury. It happened when a wooden stand prepared for the festival collapsed carrying hundreds of people.

The other reported problem was in Harar, in southeastern Ethiopia. The problem there appears to be politically motivated and lasted for two days now.

Radicalized Oromo nationalist’s youth apparently wanted to dictate the terms of celebration for Christians to the point of banning the Ethiopian flag that did not happen to be their choice.

And in the ensuing clash, Ethiopian Orthodox Church Epiphany celebration procession was halted in Harar as youth group who call themselves as qeerroo blocked road to disrupt the ceremony.

A picture circulating on facebook shows a young man posing with an axe which was meant to be used to attack youth groups who want to carry Ethiopian flag during the celebration. It is very common to see worshipers carrying Ethiopian flag during Ethiopian Church festivals.

Timkat _ Harar
Unverified photo of A young man is posing with his axe as group of youth block roads to disrupt Timkat celebration . Photo : Social Media

According to a report by Adebabay media which cited a source from social media, Priests carrying the Ark from the Holy Savior Church and St. George church was blocked in the middle of the ritual procession to return the Arks to their altars in their respective churches on Monday.

Police reportedly fired tear gas on the laity instead of responding to those who took the law in their own hands to stop the celebration of what is now UNESCO inscribed world intangible cultural heritage, Timkat.

At least two are said to be wounded after police attacks. 

DW Amharic service has a different narrative as to what happened in Harar. An eye witness said that the clash was between those who wanted to hoist the Ethiopian flag during the Timkat celebration and qeerroo, radical ethnic Oromo youth, who do not want the Ethiopian flag.

The incident happened in the Arategna locality of the city. Eyewitnesses told DW Amharic that business belonging to Christians was attacked.

Oromo Federalist Congress chairman, who is said to be in a radicalizing path, claims that his office in Harara was attacked, and he blamed the government for not acting to defend the office.

He said that he received information that the defense force was in the area when the attack happened. Merara also claimed that the attackers are youth group who were returning from the Timkat celebration.

DW Amharic said that the city’s Government Communication Office and the City’s Security office was contacted but declined to respond.

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