The Ethiopians have been celebrating the annual religious festival of St. Gabriel at the famous?
The Ethiopians have been celebrating the annual religious festival of St. Gabriel at the famous shrine at Kulubi Hill. And because the shrine has been under attack several times in recent months by Somali backed forces of the Western Somali Liberation which were beaten back, this year's event turned into a huge Front, demonstration of national Ethiopian pride.
SYNOPSIS: The Kulubi St. Gabriel shrine holds a special significance for Ethiopians at this time. Some 75 kilometres (48 miles) west of Harar, and the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the Ogaden war, it is still safely in Ethiopian hands. The local people, in their chanting and in their prayers, promised to keep it so. Many in the procession carried a symbolic stone on their heads, keeping a vow made at earlier festivals that if God gave them a child, the grateful parents would suffer the humiliation of carrying the stones.
For the duration of the festival, the whole area was put under the strictest security. Many of the militiamen guarding the marchers had themselves fought for the safety of the shrine against Somali backed forces in severe battles in October last year. The church placed on a remote hilltop, is unique in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, now receiving considerable help from the Soviet Union, has been claiming major successes in a new offensive in the Ogaden. In their songs, the local militia vowed never to relinquish their homeland to the Western Somali Liberation Front.
The High Priests received gifts from those whose prayers had been answered. It was a joyous occasion for everyone, and the feared infiltration of guerrillas from the Ogaden did not happen. Instead the people could relax and enjoy themselves as befits a festival.
The militia, of course, could not afford to relax their guard, for the Front's forces are still in strength on the other side of Harar. Spirits were high with the militiamen confident of victory in future confrontations.
The war for the Ogaden is far from over, with Somalia now seeking arms from Britain and elsewhere, because they say, Ethiopia is about to invade her.