ADDIS ABEBA – Huge crowds turned out in Addis Ababa as it hosted for the first time in more than a century the annual Irreecha thanksgiving festival of the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
In one Irreecha tradition, freshly cut grass and flowers are placed in water to thank God for the end of the rainy season and the beginning of spring.
There was tight security as hundreds of thousands of people clogged the streets, including Addis Ababa’s main public area, Meskel Square. They chanted, sang and waved flags and flowers.
City officials said they were expecting 10 million people to take part, though the final attendance figures are hard to estimate.
Previously, the annual festival had been celebrated in Bishoftu, 40km (25 miles) away, but similar gatherings have taken place in other parts of Oromia at different times of the year.
The move to the capital, which is surrounded by Oromia, is seen by some as a recognition of Oromo culture by the authorities. For years, Oromo people had complained of cultural and political marginalization.
But some say it is an attempt by the ruling party to cultivate popular support ahead of next year’s general election, reports the BBC.