Delving into this narrative, readers are urged to view it as a deeply personal reflection rather than a political statement.
Irreechaa, the Oromo Thanksgiving, is deeply ingrained within the heartbeats of the Oromo community. This sacred gathering sees diverse groups – Christians, Muslims, Waaqeefataa, and others, coming together in unity. Their primary objective? To celebrate Thanksgiving, gracefully setting aside their religious and cultural backgrounds. This beautiful coming together symbolizes the spirit of unity and harmony intrinsic to Oromo culture. It’s not merely about ceremony; Irreechaa is a sanctuary of community spirit and shared purpose.
A day that starts with the sun casting its first rays witnesses the convergence of prayers and gratitude, while the air gets imbued with hymns that resonate with spirituality. The essence of Irreechaa isn’t just about tradition; it’s a day emphasizing the interconnected threads of humanity, urging everyone to reflect and renew their pledges of harmony.
Recounting personal anecdotes, there were challenging chapters in the history of Irreechaa. A recent reunion with old acquaintances in Finfinnee led to reminiscent conversations about the sacrifices made and the sheer determination that ensured the continuity of Irreechaa, even amidst adversities like the harrowing events of the 2016 Massacre. That 2016 events were deeply troubling and have been documented by various international organizations and researchers. That period witnessed significant unrest, with many Oromos protesting against perceived marginalization and demanding greater political representation and respect for their rights.
During that time, the Ethiopian government’s response to the Oromo protests was characterized by many as heavy-handed and repressive. As John A. Davies notes, ‘The use of tanks and live ammunition to quell peaceful protests is an overt manifestation of the state’s refusal to negotiate or even communicate with marginalized groups.’
The tragedy of this situation was further underscored by eyewitness accounts. One such account describes the harrowing scene: ‘The roads were closed, and as the tanks rolled in, we heard the chilling sounds of heavy weaponry. Panic ensued, and in the chaos, Oromo men, women, and children were either fired upon or found themselves trapped, with many rushed to ditches. The ensuing stampede resulted in the death of hundreds.’
Such actions by the state have raised significant human rights concerns. According to the Human Rights Watch report of 2016, these incidents were ‘indicative of the state’s continued reliance on draconian measures to silence dissenting voices, rather than engaging with its citizens to address legitimate grievances.’ This confrontational approach towards the Oromo people has historically hindered the nation-building process in Ethiopia.
Today, an encouraging change has taken place. Once viewed as a potential threat, Irreechaa celebrations now see cities opening their gates and hearts to the joyous festivity. Today’s celebrations, graced by dignitaries, like regional president, mayors and other high-level national and regional officials and commoners alike, paint a vivid contrast to bygone eras. They stand as a testament to the Oromo people’s unwavering spirit, their undying love for their culture, and an unbreakable bond of unity.
Yet, while the present paints a hopeful picture, it is crucial to tread with care. We must remember the miles walked to reach this juncture. The achievements of the Oromo community are significant, but resting on laurels is not an option. The satisfaction derived from progress should not overshadow the tasks that lie ahead.
To be proud is essential, but complacency can be a silent foe. This hard-earned progress is the fruit of collective efforts spanning different sectors and generations of the Oromo community. Working in harmony, both with fellow Oromos and non-Oromos, is imperative to ensure mutual understanding, respect, and celebration of diverse cultures. The challenges were surmounted through the combined efforts of various Oromo groups working in tandem.
Furthermore, even today, as one traverses city streets, murmurs of resentment towards these celebrations are audible. Certain factions continue to perceive Oromo traditions as a looming threat. It’s imperative for the Oromo community to extend an olive branch, educating and reaching out, ensuring understanding without any sense of isolation.
Most importantly, it is essential to recognize this achievement. While some may downplay it as a minor accomplishment, this is far from the truth. This comes after the Oromo people have overcome monumental challenges and obstacles set before them.
For those who perceive Irreechaa as a menace to their lifestyle or beliefs, it is essential to realize that this is not the case. In fact, Irreechaa belongs to you as much as it does to any Oromo. You have the opportunity to make it a holiday that positions Ethiopia at the forefront of global tourism. Celebrate with us, become a part of this tradition. It is only when one grasps the profound significance of Irreechaa that true appreciation emerges. Indeed, recognizing the essence of this celebration draws us closer to our shared destiny as Ethiopians.
In conclusion, Irreechaa symbolizes more than a mere celebration; it mirrors the Oromo community’s history, challenges, and achievements. While cherishing and basking in these accomplishments, we must also stride forward, ensuring the torch of Oromo culture burns bright, bringing warmth and enlightenment for generations to come.