Ethiopia’s most popular musician Hachalu Hundessa is shot dead, dozens die in protests. The frustration of the Oromo youth is discharged.
The death of the immensely popular protest singer Hachalu Hundessa has fueled the dormant tensions in Ethiopia. The 34-year-old was shot dead in his car by unknown people in the capital Addis Ababa on Monday evening. Since then, at least 50 people have been killed in explosions and demonstrations in several cities. Police shot sharply, more than 100 people were injured and dozens arrested.
Hachalu was the musical voice of the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia’s 110 million inhabitants. “He was the conscience of the Oromo nation,” wrote Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard newspaper on social media. As a 17-year-old, the singer was detained for five years for protests against Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime at the time.
Hachalu’s songs mostly dealt with the oppression of his Oromo people. “Don’t wait for outside help, a dream that doesn’t come true. Get up, saddle your horse and fight, you are the one who is close to the palace. ”Such songs became battle songs not only for Oromo, but for all activists during the bloodily crushed mass protests between 2015 and 2018. The protests led to the takeover of power by the current one Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, an Oromo. Abiy has brought reforms to Ethiopia, tens of thousands of political prisoners have been released, political opposition has been allowed, and freedom of expression. For this and for making peace with Eritrea, Abiy received the last yearNobel Peace Prize. But the new protests make it clear that Abiy is now losing massive support among the Oromo youth. The Prime Minister expressed his condolences on Hachalus’ death on Twitter: “Ethiopia has lost a valuable life”. The singer had reported some time ago that he was threatened with death, but did not know who was behind it. Police say they arrested some suspects.
Hachalu remained critical of the government even under Abiys. He continued to see himself as the voice of the Oromo. When reporters spoke to him on the phone two years ago to arrange a meeting with him, he said: “I would like to speak to foreign media, but it is more important to me that I reach my own people.” Hachalu is said to be buried in his native Ambo on Thursday. But some of his fans, led by the Oromo media magnate, have tried to prevent the body from being transported to Ambo. They wanted the funeral to take place in Addis Ababa. Jawar was arrested in clashes.
This further aggravates the confrontation. Jawar, once a good friend of Abiy, is now one of his greatest opponents. He and many young Oromo think that Abiy is doing too little for his own ethnicity. A confrontation between the police and Jawar supporters killed 78 people last year. Many young Oromo do not believe in multi-ethnic Ethiopia and prefer their own state: Oromia.
Ethiopia is divided into states on an ethnic basis. Now that there is more freedom, all ethnicities and regions are demanding more influence and power in the central government. Prime Minister Abiy, once hailed, is criticized on all sides. In return, he uses the same undemocratic means as his predecessors. The Internet has been closed in Ethiopia since Tuesday. Free elections scheduled for August have already been postponed because of corona.