The parade, dressed in sacred white cloth, floated quietly to a priest, calling on believers to celebrate the respected saint Archangel Michael in Ethiopia.
At dawn, thousands of believers gathered at the church in Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest region, where the long-awaited elections will be held on Monday.
Devotees—some bent over on crutches, others clutching children—were praying to St. Michael in a church named after him, with a metal cross and a towering Ethiopian flag on the top of the church, located in the city of Bahir Dar.
Huluager Kinde, a 27-year-old believer, said: “This is a beautiful day for us… In our faith, we pray that Saint Michael will bring us peace and protect us from evil.”
When Ebabu Tsega left the church, with a gray cross painted on his forehead, he said that this vote was “essential” for Ethiopia.
The 29-year-old elementary school teacher said: “I am very happy to vote because I want to elect those who lead me and represent me.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 with the support of popular demonstrations against the government, and he promised to hold Ethiopia’s most competitive election to date.
Monday was his first electoral test since the prime minister began a series of democratic and economic reforms.
But many voters-including parts of Amhara-will have to wait until September to vote. Due to unrest and logistical issues, about one-fifth of Ethiopia’s electoral districts have postponed the election.
In the war-torn Tigray area adjacent to Amhara, elections will not be held at all.
Another believer in Bashir Dar Church, Gulilat Waku, wants voters to “peacefully accept” the results of Monday’s vote.
The 34-year-old doctoral student said: “We pray that every Ethiopian will participate in the election and accept the results of the election.”