ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Ethiopia, which adheres to the Orthodox Julian calendar, peacefully celebrated its New Year on Sunday with President Girma Ode-Giorgis calling for national unity to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
As much of the world commemorated the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Ethiopians spent a peaceful Enkutatash, or New Year's feast day, with their traditional style of singing, dancing and clothing.
Official statements made no direct mention of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, meanwhile celebrations were more colorful than usual in the Horn of Africa nation.
In a nationwide broadcast, the 81-year-old Girma, whose role islargely that of a figurehead, exhorted his compatriots to play a decisive role in the efforts to deter the spread of HIV/AIDS by undergoing voluntary counseling testing (VCT) on a regular basis.
He said undergoing VCT would have a paramount importance for the well-being of the individual, the family and the community at large.
Currently, there are around 1.6 million people in Ethiopia who are living with HIV, the president said, adding that more than half a million children have lost their parents to AIDS.
Saturday night marked the passage from 1997 to 1998 in Ethiopia's calendar. The Enkutatash festival, which falls on September 11 (or September 12 following Ethiopian Leap Years), traditionally heralds the return of sunnier weather after three months of rain.
Ye'alemzewd Zemene, deputy inspector with the Federal Police Commission, told Xinhua that the Ethiopian New Year is being celebrated peacefully beginning from the eve on Saturday.
He added the New Year's Eve was particularly peaceful in the Sheraton Addis hotel, where thousands of people spent the unforgettable night celebrations without any security problem.
The Sheraton Addis hotel, the first 7-star Luxury Collection hotel in Africa, celebrated the Ethiopian New Year's Eve on Saturday with a thrilling open-air concert, breathtaking light shows champagne and dazzling fireworks at midnight.
The luxury hotel entertained more than 3,000 well-dressed guests, many of whom from North America, Europe, and the Middle East, buying tickets for 1,150 birr (133 US dollars) per person.
Wyclef Jean, the celebrated American Hip hop singer, was performing at the Ethiopian New Year in Sheraton Addis with other Ethiopian singers, such as Mohamed Ahmed, Johnny Raga and Wondimu Jira.
Ye'alemzewd also said there has been no incident of robbery or traffic accident reported to the commission until late Sunday afternoon.
However, the senior police officer said four individuals in thecapital were killed in their respective residences late Saturday suffocated by carbon dioxide.
He said police forces are patrolling around market places and churches so as to enable the people to celebrate the New Year without any problem. Enditem