An annual event celebrating an African ethnic group will have special significance Saturday.
Viva Oromia: Oromo Night 2016 will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Atwood Memorial Center ballroom at St. Cloud State University.
Oromo Student Organization president Solan Tolessa said the event began a few years ago as a way to inform community members about the culture of his people.
Tolessa said it’s also served as a recruiting tool of sorts, as outside students have become Huskies after attending.
This year’s event will be a chance to show solidarity with students in Ethiopia who have been protesting land policies, he said.
“Oromo farmers are getting ripped off by the government,” Tolessa said.
Some estimates have said more than 140 people have died in recent clashes with government forces. A now-scrapped plan to extend the boundaries of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, sparked the protests.
The Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in the East African country, and the Oromia region surrounds the capital.
In December, hundreds of Oromo people demonstrated at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Tolessa said for about 10 days, he couldn’t contact his family members. Overall, they are fine, he said, but many people are suffering.
Saturday’s event won’t be limited to solemn feelings, however. Flatbread, rice, chicken and other East African staples will feed guests. Dances, a fashion show and poetry performances will entertain them.
And guest speaker Asmarom Legesse will inform attendees. The author from Eritrea, which lies north of Ethiopia, has conducted field studies of Oromo people for decades, Tolessa said.
Citizen estimates have put the population of Oromo people in Minnesota between 20,000 and 40,000. Dotoo Nebi, executive director of the Midwest Oromo Community, told the Times in September he thinks about 500 Oromo people live in St. Cloud.