Managing Irreecha Ritual: Religion and Politics in Post 1991 Ethiopia


Dr. Serawit Bekele Debele

Research Area:


Following the 1991 change of government, Ethiopia endorsed the ideology of ethnic federalism, which states the rights and equalities of all of the many diverse ethnic groups living in the country. Government is declared to be secular, with a clear separation of church and state. The state is also declared to be a secular state which separates state and religion. The constitution also addresses the question of religious freedom. Many different religions mushroomed as a result of the state’s secular stance, in stark contrast to previous governments. Although the constitution states that the government shall not interfere with religious affairs, this has not always been the case in with respect to the revival of religious groups. This is witnessed in a number of instances in which the government acts against the constitutional provision of separation. In this context, the research mainly focuses on the Oromo religion called Waqqefana in post-1991 Ethiopia. It employs two main components of the Oromo religion, the Qallu institution and an annual ritual called Irrecha, to study the dynamics of government intervention and determine whether the religious areas spaces are apolitical. The research will investigate what goes on in Waqqefana religious areas that forces the government to interfere, thereby breaching its own commitment to secularism. The objective of the study is to describe and analyse how the religious space in post-1991 Ethiopia is appropriated and used by different actors including the government and the reasons accounting for it through a critical engagement with the two elements of the Oromo religion.