Mass protests broke out in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa after popular Oromo singer and musician Hachalu Hundessa was murdered.
The incident happened on Monday night sparking outrage across the country. Gunfire rattled across the capital on Tuesday as police tried to contain the protestors. Reports indicate several journalists have been arrested as the situation remains tense. According to the New York Times, nine people have lost their lives thus far.
Hundessa was attacked while driving through a suburb in Addis Ababa. He was immediately rushed to the hospital only to succumb to the gunshot wounds. Geta Argaw, the city police commissioner, shared the developments with state-owned broadcaster Fana.
Random killing or political?
Last week, Halacha had an interview with Oromia Media Network where he denounced violence vented out on citizens by past emperors and present leaders. He also criticized the current prime minister’s leadership.
PM Abiy Ahmed introduced several overhauls and reforms that have earned him a Nobel Laureate status. However, critics point out the recent wave of journalist detentions and cracking down on protestors.
Human rights groups have also accused the security forces of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, rape, and detentions. The rights groups want the government to prosecute police officers involved in killing demonstrators during the protests that took place late last year.
Many people read an ulterior motive around his untimely death given he had reported receiving death threats. So far there is no idea who the assailants are or what their intentions were, however, some arrests were made. Thousands of fans and mourners marched to the hospital where his body was taken chanting anti-government slogans. The singer has solid reform credentials having served a five-year prison sentence when he was 17 for taking part in protests.
Leading international figures such as The WHO chief Dr.Tedros Adhanom expressed his deepest condolences in a tweet. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also shared his sympathies with the fallen singer’s fans, saying Ethiopia has “lost a precious life today.” He went ahead to describe him as a “magnificent and vibrant young artist.” The death happened at a peculiar time politically when elections are postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many await to see how the Ethiopian PM will control the spread of the covid19 pandemic, sustain economic growth, and handling the upcoming elections.
Royal statue destroyed
In Eastern Harar, a statue of Ras Makonnen Wolde Mikael, the father to Ethiopia’s last emperor Haile Selassie was toppled. The statue showcased the royal leader and former governor of Harar in the 19C seated on a horse.
In a statement shared to the public, authorities stormed into the media radio Addis Ababa and detained all employees. The network disclosed that Mr. Mohammed, alongside opposition leader Bekele Garba, were held.
Riots and Unrest
The capital Addis Ababa witnessed running battles between protestors and police for the greater part of Tuesday. Police dispersed the crowds using tear gas and the protestors set fire to tires.
In Adama, five people lost their lives after succumbing to gunfire while 75 others sustained injuries. 19 others were injured in nearby Dera. 2 people lost their lives in Chiro from the protests.
The internet got switched off at exactly 9 a.m local time. A move that prompted the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to condemn the move in a public statement issued by sub-Saharan Africa Representative Muthoki Mumo.
The Oromo hero
Hundessa comes from the Oromo ethnic group; the largest ethnic group making up 25-40% of the country’s population. Oromo reside across the country and speak a common language that transcends into western Somalia and Northern Kenya. Hachalu was a strong advocate for the plight of the Oromo using his music to champion for their rights. His songs became anthems used during the unrest that brought down the previous prime minister in 2018, Hailemariam Desalegn. “Maalan Jira” and “Jirraa” are two iconic songs with a revolutionary message.
Despite their large number, they have expressed their dissatisfaction with the distribution of national resources. Calls that heightened the urge for independence, provoking confrontation from the government. The Oromo played a lead role in the 2018 wave of protests that resulted in the ouster of the previous prime minister.