By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK (IDN) – Harvest festivals are a common sight in Africa although this year organizers were advised to keep the numbers down due to the COVID-10 pandemic.
The Homowo Festival – a celebration by the Ga people of Ghana – was held as scheduled in Ga Mashie. Many of the celebrants could be seen wearing masks while cooking pots held steaming soups and other dishes.
In Ethiopia, massive crowds were expected in the Oromia region for the harvest festival of Irreecha – one of the year’s most important cultural and religious events for millions of ethnic Oromos. Flowers and long grasses are traditionally tossed into a pool of water to thank God for the blessings of the past year and to wish prosperity for the coming year.
But citing growing concerns about political violence in the country, police made 500 arrests of alleged suspects planning to disrupt the festivities. A number of firearms, pistols and hand grenades were also seized.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, once a symbol of hope for his ethnic community, restricted attendance to approximately 5,000 people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which was done for a recent Orthodox Christian holiday, they said.
In downtown Addis Ababa, people wearing face masks and white clothes stitched with the colours of the Oromia region’s flag, said they were subjected to at least six security checks complete with body searches and, in some areas, sniffer dogs.
“I don’t know the kind of information they have but these security checks are too much,” Hassen, a participant who gave only his first name, told a reporter. “Added with the COVID-19, it really has ruined the festive mood.”
Some attendees accused the government of imposing restrictions to prevent anti-government protests at a time when Oromo opposition politicians are behind bars and security forces stand accused of using heavy-handed tactics against civilians in the Oromo region surrounding the capital.
“When people get together, they may reflect on what’s going wrong in the country. For fear of that, they have restricted us,” Jatani Bonaya, a 26-year-old student, told Al Jazeera. “What the government is doing is not right.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 05 October 2020]
Photo: Irreecha is a thanksgiving festival celebrated every year. Oromo people gather from all places to the sacred lake and sprinkle the water to their body. In 2019, Irreecha was celebrated at artificial lake for the first time due to the drying up of lake. CC BY-SA 4.0
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