Ethiopia has had a busy week following the weekend stampede that according to official records killed some 55 people. The Irreecha festival in the Oromia region turned rowdy and led to the deaths.
Opposition activists say the number of people who died were more than was reported by the government. They blame security forces of firing tear gas into peaceful celebrants leading to the stampede.
The government blamed criminals who they say infiltrated the festival and created the panic situation leading to the loss of lives.
The Ethiopian government called for three days of national mourning beginning Monday after several people died during a stampede at a festival in the Oromia region on Sunday.
The stampede was sparked by Ethiopia’s special forces who fired teargas and warning shots to disperse protesters at the annual Irreecha thanksgiving festival in the town of Bishoftu. The government blamed “anti-peace forces” for the stampede which they say has claimed 52 lives.
The United States also confirmed that a citizen of the US had also died. Sharon Gray, 31, a California university researcher was killed when protesters attacked a vehicle she was travelling in with rocks.
Two days after the stampede, the state affiliated FANA Broadcasting Corporate reported that protests in the region had led to an attack on the factory of Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, which is located in the restive region.
Trucks and machinery belonging to the Dangote group were attacked. Local media reported that other entities including a court building and government vehicles were also torched.
In the midst of the continuing protests, the government reportedly blocked the internet, Ethiopia is no stranger to internet blockage. Later in the day, it was reported that mobile internet remained cut but fixed line service was partially restored.
Still on Wednesday, the country launched a 750-km railway line linking Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa and Red Sea state of Djibouti. The Chinese built project is to create new manufacturing industries, improve transport and further open up landlocked Ethiopia.
The new railway line is expected to cut the journey time to under 10 hours. Ethiopia is seeking to have 5,000 km of new lines working across the country by 2020.
Leaders from the Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia appealed for calm and a national dialogue in the country amidst continuing protests and targeting of businesses in the country.
The government has confirmed that after the attack on Dangote’s business concerns on Monday, 10 other businesses have been burnt down and looted in the Oromia region. The government blames the violence on organized criminals.
As at Friday, the privately run media outfit, Addis Standard, was reporting that the internet cut that started on Wednesday was still in effect. Mobile internet remained off and other avenues were erratic and slow.
The news portal also hinted of what was to be expected in their next print edition. The paper said it was dedicating a special October edition to the fallen citizens in the ‘Irreecha Massacre.’