At Least 10 People Dead in Gondar During Epiphany Celebrations

By Staff Reporter

Timket-10-dead-GondarJanuary 20, 2020 ( -- At least 10 people died and more than a hundred others wounded in annual Timket or Epiphany celebrations in Gondar city of northern Ethiopia after big wooden seat carrying thousands of people fell down due to overload.

“The accident has left at least ten celebrants dead and more than 100 others injured. The victims include two foreigners and two police officers,” Tesfa Mekonnen, Peace and Security Division Head of the city said.

Timket literally means "Baptism" is the Orthodox Tewahedo celebration of Epiphany. It is celebrated on January 19th (or 20th in a leap year), corresponding to the 11th day of Tirr in the Ethiopian calendar.

"The cause of the accident is none but slipping off the wooden seats and the stamped that follow," Tesfa added.

At least 1.5 million people attended this year's Timket celebrations in Gondar city where a delegation from Eritrea, Sidama from the southern part of Ethiopia, hundreds of foreigners from different corners of the world were guests of honors.

There were great concerns among the Ethiopian public and the government that this year Epiphany celebrations could be turned into violence due to the growing religious tensions the nation has witnessed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in April 2018.

The celebrations were relatively peaceful except violence in Harar city of eastern Ethiopia where unspecified people were wounded after clashes occurred between followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Muslims.

Ethiopian Orthodox Church followers and religious fathers in Harar city accused Muslims of denying Orthodox Christian followers to hoist the common green, yellow and red flags on the streets where the Tabot otherwise called “arc of the covenant” passes.

The clash occurred after the city police became indifferent to the repeated requests by Orthodox Church followers to stop the act of those Muslims who were tearing and burning the flags hoisted.

“Following the clashes, unspecified numbers of people were wounded including the administrator of Saint Gabriel Church. A tear gas bomb was thrown by the police on the premises of the church, said Liqberhan Tibebu,” administrator of the Holy Trinity Church in the city

The cause of the conflict is not clear but eyewitnesses said the Muslims claimed the Orthodox Christian followers attacked Mosques and Quraan Monument in the city.

Timket celebrates the baptism of Jesus on the River Jordan. This festival is best known for its ritual reenactment of baptism (similar to such reenactments performed by numerous Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land when they visit the Jordan).

Minor clashes also occurred in Debrezeit and Suluta towns which are located a few kilometers from the capital Addis Ababa after some group of people denied Christians the hoisting of the common green, yellow and red flags.   

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