By Prince Kurupati
Ethiopian security forces opened fire on civilians over the weekend in an incident widely condemned by the Ethiopian government and many other states across the region. At least seven people have been reported dead while several others were wounded.
The incident happened in the town of Weldiya, in the Amhara region some 510km north of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The town was playing host to a Temkit (Epiphany) festival when the unfortunate event took place.
Head of the Communication Bureau in the Amhara region, Nigusu Tilahun was the first person to break the news on his Facebook page on Saturday. Writing in Amharic, he said that many lives have been lost after the Ethiopian security forces crossed path with the civilians most of which were youth who had come to celebrate the Timket festival.
According to allAfrica.com, many residents from the Amhara region corroborated Tilahun’s story including one, Alemayehu Yemiru who was present during the clash. Speaking in a phone interview, Yemiru said that the clash took place on the second day of the Timket festival just before sunset. Yemiru said the youths were marching up and down the streets of Weldiya singing and dancing to the traditional Timket songs. However, some started to sing anti-government songs and that’s when the chaos started.
The Weldia General Hospital yesterday said that it had admitted 18 people who were part of the Timket Festival and it expects the numbers to increase.
The Timket (Epiphany) is a festival celebrated annually in the region of Amhara in Ethiopia. The festival is held at the time when Christians celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ. The festival is largely celebrated by those who attend the Ethiopian Orthodox Twahido church.
In a later post, Tilahun stated that all those who “instigated the violence” and those that led to the death of “innocent civilians” would be brought to book as thorough investigations by the government are already in motion.
Reports say there were several regional and federal security forces in the Amhara region who had not yet returned to their barracks since December 2017 when there were political skirmishes during a football match between Mekelle City and Woldiya City while some more soldiers were deployed at the start of the festival. The region also had some violent protests towards the end of last year at the Woldiya University when hundreds of Tigrayan students flee the campus for fear of ethnic clashes.
The Amhara region is also the same region where the anti-government protests of October 2016 that eventually led to the State of Emergency (October 2016 to August 2017) started.
Reports from Ethiopia say that more protests may be happening in response to the Timket killings but obtaining more information or pictures from the scenes has been made extremely difficult as the Ethiopian government cut off the internet soon after the reports of the killings leaked.