Reports from Ethiopia indicate that about five people were killed in the town of Weldiya when security forces shot at festival goers. Several others were also wounded in the incident which happened on Saturday.
Weldiya, is a town located in the Amhara region and is about 510km north of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The number of casualties is said to be rising.
The official spokesperson for the region confirmed the incident in a Facebook post stating that lives were lost after federal security forces clashed with young people in the town of Weldiya.
He didn’t mention the number causalities but he said that after thorough investigations, the government would bring those responsible for “instigating the violence” and causing the death of “innocent civilians,” the Addis Standard news portal reported.
The incident happened on the second day of Epiphany (a series of events marking the Baptism of Christ) by members of the Orthodox Church in Ethiopia. The Addis Standard quoted a source who said there had been armed security deployed for the festivities.
Young people who were singing, dancing and marching through the town are reported to have started singing anti-government protest songs and chants leading to the incident.
Reports say there has been heavy federal and regional security forces in Amhara state since last December following skirmishes at a football match. The region also experienced disturbances in its universities in what was described as ethnic-based attacks.
Amhara located in the country’s north was along with Oromia, the heart of anti-government protests that shook the country between 2015 and much of 2016. The protests led to an October 2016 state of emergency lifted in August 2017.
Ethiopia’s internal security headaches are a worry to the entire Horn of Africa region given that Addis Ababa is a power house across the very volatile region. Government recently started political reforms it said were aimed at fostering national unity.