Ethiopia's Oromo protest, demand freedom for jailed leaders

ADDIS ABABA (AP), Members of Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, Oromo, protested against the government Saturday as they gathered in the capital to celebrate their annual Thanksgiving festival, Irreecha.
After performing ritual ceremonies to celebrate the end of the rainy season, and the start of harvest in Oromia state, scores of people chanted slogans in the middle of Addis Ababa.

They also sang support for Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo opposition politician who was detained last year after a rash of violent incidents triggered by the death of a well-known Oromo singer. Along with other terrorist suspects, he remains in prison. Activists claim that their detention was politically motivated.

Many thousands attended Saturday's celebrations. They went smoothly despite protests and heavy security. A spokesperson for the police would not comment on arrests of protesters.

The Oromos have expressed their frustration over the perceived economic and political marginalization of the Oromos in the past. Abiy is the first Oromo leader in the country, but some Oromo are increasingly critical of him for not doing enough to help them.

As regional security forces fight a separatist insurgency, violence has been raging in parts of Oromia in recent years. They are accused of human rights violations against civilians, including summary executions.

Hundreds of people were arrested in advance of the celebrations last year on suspicion of plotting to attack and causing unrest. In 2016, several dozen worshippers were massacred by police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors.