Last year’s festival was held after months of demonstrations by Oromo communities. Police opened fire with tear gas after some people started shouting protest slogans and an ensuing stampede killed at least 50 people, though activists say the toll was much higher.
Uniformed officers were absent from this year’s event held by a lake in a resort town southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.
There were no attempts to stop hundreds of youths who mounted a stage and crossed their arms in a gesture of defiance that would otherwise invite arrest.
“The government is trying to control us and deny our rights, lives and security,” said Sabana Bone.
“We are remembering what happened last year and it makes us angry. We need freedom,” he added.
The bloodshed at least at year’s Irreecha, which marks the end of rainy season and the upcoming harvest, prompted parliament to declare a nationwide state of emergency that was repealed in August.
The decree stopped months of protests, but many Oromos feel the government has not responded to their grievances.