Addis Ababa Police announced on Friday the closure of roads in the capital for the ethnic Oromo religious holiday, Irreecha, now branded as”Thanksgiving Day.”
The road closures became effective this Friday, and extensive security measures have been put in place.
Fourteen major roads in the capital, Addis Ababa, have been designated for closure.
City attractions in Addis Ababa, including Addis Ababa itself, have been adorned with what Oromo nationalist politicians describe as the “Geda Flag,” featuring a tricolor of black, red, and white, reminiscent of Egyptian flags.
The festival has taken center stage in state media outlets for several days now. It appears that the Wake Fena religious festival has been structured to span three days, with celebrations scheduled for Saturday and Sunday this week.
Police have announced that the road closures in the capital will be lifted once the celebration concludes, on Monday.
Irreecha is a religious practice within the traditional Oromo faith known as Wake Fena, falling outside the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) and belonging to the realm of traditional animist faiths. It is traditionally celebrated near bodies of water. Historically, it was celebrated in Debre Zeit (now renamed as Bishoftu) on the shores of Lake Hora. Given the absence of a natural lake in Addis Ababa, an artificial one is created. The religious practice in Addis Ababa, where more than 70 percent of the population is non-Oromo, has raised questions about its political implications.
Some critics argue that the Ethiopian government is attempting to impose Irreecha on Ethiopians branding it as Oromo culture and thanksgiving day. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has conveyed a message for the holiday, framing Irreecha as a “Thanksgiving” holiday, a description recognized by the United States government.
In contrast to the restrictions imposed during this year’s Meskel festival, which included bans on wearing Ethiopian colors and limiting the number of participants in Meskel Square, Irreecha seems to be receiving preferential treatment. The government is even providing transport facilities for those coming to the capital to celebrate Irrecha, leading some to interpret this as a clear government motive to promote Irrecha as a dominant event, potentially overshadowing other religious holidays like Meskel.
The U.S. government seems to have been working to weaken core Ethiopian values and cultures, similar to its efforts in other countries, through avenues such as Hollywood movies and various “development programs.” The culture of the Ethiopian entertainment industry and the media culture itself are now mostly modeled after those existing in the United States.
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