Protests that erupted last week over murder of popular ethnic Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa kill 239, police say.
The death toll from demonstrations and ethnic violence that erupted in Ethiopia last week following the murder of a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group has risen to 239, according to police.
Pop star Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, a hero to many Oromo who saw him as the voice of their marginalisation, was shot dead by unknown attackers on June 29, heightening ethnic tensions threatening the country’s democratic transition.
Protests broke out in the capital Addis Ababa, as well as the surrounding Oromia region which is the homeland of the country’s largest ethnic group, who have long felt economically and politically sidelined in the diverse nation.
Officials have attributed the deaths to a combination of lethal force by security officers and interethnic violence.
“Due to the unrest that occurred in the region, nine police officers, five militia members and 215 civilians have lost their lives,” acting Oromia police commissioner Mustafa Kedir said on state television on Wednesday.
Police in Addis Ababa had previously reported 10 deaths in the capital. The total death toll is an increase from 166 fatalities reported last weekend.
Mustafa also said there had been “extensive damage and looting” of government and private property.
“To control this unrest, more than 3,500 suspects have been arrested. They were anti-peace elements who carried out attacks using the artist’s death as a pretext to dismantle the constitutional system by force,” he said.
“The Oromo population should be inclusive of other ethnic groups that live among it.”
Haacaaluu’s killing tapped into grievances fuelled by decades of government repression and what the Oromo describe as their historic exclusion from political power.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – the country’s first Oromo leader – said the murder was “an evil act”. But he added that the subsequent violence represented “coordinated attempts” to destabilise the country.
Simmering ethnic tensions in the country of more than 100 million people have posed a major challenge to Abiy, whose efforts to loosen the reins of iron-fisted rule and open up the democratic space have led to increased jockeying for power and influence.
Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for ending a long-running conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, has been accused of reverting to the tactics of his predecessors, with a wave of arrests of prominent opposition politicians during the last week’s protests.
Five senior members of the Oromo Liberation Front were arrested, including Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba from the Oromo Federalist Congress. Eskinder Nega, a longtime government critic who had recently spoken out against government policies he argues favour the Oromo, was also arrested.
Haacaaluu, 36, was buried on Thursday under heavy police and military presence in his hometown of Ambo, about 100km (62 miles) west of Addis Ababa. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Free and fair elections planned for August have been postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic, as Ethiopia prepares for its democratic transition under Abiy, who is facing the deadliest protests since he took power in 2018.
Killing of pop star, who gave voice to the Oromo group, highlights the African nation’s simmering ethnic tensions.
• How Hundessa’s Murder Reveal Ethiopia’s seperation •
Firaol Ajema and his friends, dressed in black T-shirts, have been meeting each afternoon in recent days to listen to the music of Ethiopian pop star Hachalu Hundessa, also known as Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
The homemade shirts bearing the dead singer’s portrait and the slogan “I am also Hachalu” are their way of honouring the man whose murder on Monday sparked violence that killed at least 166 people and highlighted Ethiopia’s simmering ethnic tensions.
“We haven’t been able to properly mourn,” said Firaol, a university student in the town of Legetafo outside Addis Ababa, where security has been tight since the killing. “We are suffocating inside our own houses.”
Hachalu’s death, which remains unsolved, was destined to become a political flashpoint.
In uptempo pop songs riddled with political references, Hachalu gave voice to feelings of marginalisation among fellow members of his Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest.
His music was the soundtrack to anti-government protests that swept Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the country’s first Oromo leader, to office in 2018.
Yet, as Ethiopia prepares for elections that will test its democratic transition under Abiy, many Oromo nationalists feel betrayed, arguing the prime minister has failed to champion their interests.
Opposition politicians claim many of the deaths were instigated by security forces who have fired on protesters in multiple locations in Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region.
Firaol and his fellow young Oromos in Legetafo agree.
“The killing has caused a lot of sadness among us, but the way the government is handling it is even worse,” said Birhanu Gadisa, also a student. “It’s totally unacceptable.”
Contested capital The issue at the centre of this week’s crisis is the historic Oromo claim to Addis Ababa, which many ethnic nationalists refer to as Finfinne, the name given to the territory before Emperor Menelik II founded the capital in the late 19th century.
The catalyst for protests that swept Abiy to power was the unveiling in 2015 of a master plan for Addis Ababa’s expansion into Oromia.
Hachalu’s resting place has been contested with some arguing he should be buried in Addis Ababa, rather than his native Ambo to the west.
“He needed to be buried with respect inside Addis Ababa. Finfinne belongs to the Oromo people,” Firaol said.
Government officials and some of Hachalu’s relatives, however, wanted him buried in Ambo, leading to an unseemly tussle over his corpse.
According to an account provided by federal police commissioner Endeshaw Tassew, a group of Oromo nationalists, among them prominent opposition politician Jawar Mohammed, intercepted the body en route to Ambo on Tuesday and tried to take it back to Addis Ababa, where they clashed with security forces.
One police officer was killed and Jawar was arrested, further inflaming tensions in Oromia.
Two days later, the funeral in Ambo turned deadly when soldiers opened fire on crowds of mourners in a botched attempt at crowd control.
At least nine people were shot, two of them fatally, triggering fresh grief for Hachalu’s fans.
“Even when many people go out to mourn his death, we lost more lives,” said student Chala Tola.
‘Eyes of the Oromo’ Hachalu is now buried, but the divisions his killing has exposed will shape Ethiopian politics in the months to come.
Jawar remains jailed, alongside another prominent Oromo politician, Bekele Gerba. Officials have provided scant information about the charges against the two men who are due to appear in court this month.
And, as Hachalu made clear in one of his final interviews, Oromo nationalists’ grievances are deeper than recent events. Last month the singer called for the removal of a statue of Emperor Menelik II from the capital’s Piasa neighbourhood.
While Menelik is widely respected as the creator of modern-day Ethiopia, for Oromo nationalists he embodies a system of marginalisation.
During the recent protests, a crowd advanced on the statue, seemingly intent on toppling it to make Hachalu’s wish a reality, but security forces pushed them back. City police officers have been stationed around the statue since.
For Firaol, back in Legetafo, that Hachalu is dead and the statue stands says everything he needs to know about the government’s priorities.
“While they should have been protecting this guy, they have been protecting the statue,” he said. “For me Hachalu was not one person. He was the eyes of the Oromo people, and now they have blinded us.”
• Hundessa’s Murder caused protest in Ethiopia, 166 killed – 167 injured and over 1,000 arrested, 5 murder suspect nabbed •
Police confirm at least 166 deaths in violent protests over killing of popular Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa.
At least 166 people have died during violent demonstrations that roiled Ethiopia in the days following the murder of popular singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa, police said.
“In the aftermath of Hachalu’s death, 145 civilians and 11 security forces have lost their lives in the unrest in the region,” said Girma Gelam, deputy police commissioner of Oromia region, in a statement on the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate on Saturday.
Another 10 people are known to have died in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Girma said a further 167 had “sustained serious injuries” and that 1,084 people had been arrested.
Pop star Haacaaluu, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, was shot dead by unknown attackers in Addis Ababa on Monday night, heightening ethnic tensions and threatening the country’s democratic transition.
Five people have been arrested in connection with his killing.
Officials have repeatedly suggested the Oromo Liberation Front, a rebel group, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, an opposition party, were implicated.
Officials have attributed the deaths to a combination of lethal force by security officers and inter-ethnic violence.
Girma added that the violent unrest had now “completely stopped”.
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Haacaaluu’s killing and the subsequent violence represented “coordinated attempts” to destabilise the country.
Three high-profile opposition leaders – including former media mogul Jawar Mohammed – have been arrested in connection with the unrest, though officials have provided few details about the cases against them.
Haacaaluu, 36, the Oromo-language singer and song writer was buried on Thursday under heavy police and military presence in his hometown of Ambo, about 100km (62 miles) west of Addis Ababa.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
Haacaaluu’s music gave voice to Oromos’ widespread sense of economic and political marginalisation during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.
Nigerian foremost rapper and record producer, Jude Abaga, also known as M.I has paid tribute to Ethiopian musician and activist, Hachalu Hundessa, who was shot dead while driving in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Hundessa, who focused on the rights of the country’s Oromo ethnic group and became a popular voice in a wave of protests that led to the downfall of the previous prime minister in 2018, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Monday.
The 38-year-old the late musician as a leader, “a king and a truth speaker on Twitter on Friday.”
Hundessa’s songs called for greater rights for Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, which earned him many enemies and led to his arrest.
The songwriter who died at 34, was buried on Friday.
Following is death, at least 81 people were killed in violent protests in the country’s Oromia region.
Hundeessa was shot dead in the capital Addis Ababa on Monday, sparking large protests in the country.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said the killing of a popular singer and subsequent violence that has left nearly 100 dead this week represented “coordinated attempts” to destabilise the country.
Speaking during a meeting with high-ranking officials on Friday, Abiy did not identify who he blamed for the unrest, though he promised to hold to account those directly involved as well as “those that are pulling the strings”, according to a summary of his comments distributed by his office.
Abiy, last year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wore a military uniform during the meeting, a portion of which was broadcast on state television.
Singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, was shot dead in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday.
Protests immediately broke out in the city and the surrounding Oromia region.
On Thursday, officials said 97 people had been killed by security forces and in inter-ethnic clashes.
Five people have been arrested in connection with Hundeessa’s killing.
Officials have repeatedly suggested the Oromo Liberation Army, a rebel group, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, an opposition party, were implicated.
Reporting from Nairobi, NRM learnt the president stated the violence was an attempt to instigate a civil war but it has now been foiled.
“He [the president] also said the government is in the process of identifying not only those people who committed the crime of killing of the musician but also the ones inciting the violence in the country.
“The past few days we have been hearing officials saying there could be some external forces, perhaps foreign countries, who might have a hand in these protests,” she said.
Abiy said opposition groups that benefitted from amnesties he granted when he came to power in 2018 were taking up arms “instead of making a winning case through ideas and policy options”.
“A losing mindset cannot give birth to new ideas,” he was quoted to have said.
Three high-profile opposition leaders – including former media mogul Jawar Mohammed – have been arrested in connection with the unrest this week, though officials have provided few details about the cases against them.
On Friday, many businesses and government offices reopened in Addis Ababa after being closed for several days, but the internet remained shut throughout the country for a fourth day.
“Things have now returned back to normal, the security forces have taken control and the streets are calm again at the moment,” Soi reported.
The Oromo ethnic group Hundeessa, 36, the Oromo-language singer and songwriter was buried on Thursday under heavy police and military presence in his hometown of Ambo, about 100km (62 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
He was a prominent figure in successful anti-government demonstrations that lasted for three years before Abiy, who comes from the Oromo ethnic group, came to power.
During protests that led to the downfall of the previous government in 2018, he became the voice of the Oromo people.
Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in the East African country, but have long complained of discrimination and rights violations.