Since yesterday Ethiopia is in the throes of a popular uprising against the government of Prime Minister Abyi Hamed due to the assassination of the famous singer and political activist Hachalu Hundessa (34 years old) of the Oromo ethnic group, which took place on Monday 29 June in the evening at the Gelan Condominiums area in the capital of Addis Ababa.
The revolt, which began in the capital Addis Ababa and in theregion of Oromia, is now spreading to various cities across the country. It all started when hundreds of people gathered yesterday morning at the Addis Ababa hospital where the dying singer was brought.
Identical protests erupted simultaneously in Adama, a city in the state of Oromia about 60 km from the capital. The situation quickly deteriorated when Abyi Ahmed decided to respond to popular demonstrations with the classic methods that characterized the previous Tigrigna government of which he was part before his appointment as Prime Minister, shooting live bullets on the protesters.
The police were ordered to shoot live bullets the demonstrators who gathered in Adama to disperse them. The automatic weapons of the police have created an horrible massacre: 9 dead and 70 injured. This is the news offered to the African and International media by a doctor from the general hospital who did not want to be identified for security reasons. The government is suspected of using paramilitary groups as well. Many of the demonstrators injured and admitted to Adama hospital had wounds made by knife and by other blank weapons.
Another 8 people were killed and 80 injured by the police during clashes in various points in the capital Addis Ababa. The order to shoot live bullets the crowd was given to ‘control the riots’. The American Embassy has alerted its citizens in the country by inviting them to stay in their homes until further notice, ensuring that the protests and shots are under close monitoring to assess the seriousness of the situation.
One of the demonstrations that took place in the capital was organized outside the American Embassy. Despite the fact that the police carefully avoided shooting at the crowd in that specific place, the US security service decreed the highest alert, describing the situation “unstable at the moment“.
The Abyi government has imposed a state of emergency (currently not officially declared). Access to the internet and telephone communications has been interrupted across the country. This operation is easy to implement given that the state-owned company Ethio Telecom is the only telecommunications provider in Ethiopia.
A monopoly wanted by the previous Tigrinean government for national security reasons and continued by Prime Minister Abyi, despite vague promises to liberalize the Telecom sector by opening it to private actors. In the years preceding his appointment as Premier, Abyi had contributed to establishing an effective system of interception and control of communications for all citizens and foreigners present in the country. System still in force.
Hachalu Hundessa was a prominent figure of the Oromos, a Bantu ethnic group from Kenya that represents 32% of the Ethiopian population (around 24 million people). Hachalufought with his songs and his social commitment for the visibility not only of his ethnicity, managing to galvanize the youth Oromo and Amara during the years of the protests that in 2018 led to the appointment of Prime Minister AbyiAhamed with the promise of initiate political reforms in the country.
“Hachalu was the soundtrack of the Oromo revolution, a lyrical genius and an activist who embodied the hopes and aspirations of his people. His songs were of the anti-government resistance that began in 2015 with street protests in the Oromia region which eventually led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Through ballads like ‘MaalanJira‘ (‘What existence is mine’) and ‘Jirraa‘ (‘We are here’), Hundessa has been credited with capturing not only the struggle and frustrations of the Oromo protesters, but also their dreams for the country which is the second most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria. Hachalu was exceptionally brave and a man of many great talents ” saidAwol Allo, a law professor at Keele University in England.
Hachalu Hundessa was born in Ambo from Gudatu Hora and Hindessa Bonsa both of the Oromo ethnic group. Her childhood and adolescence passed her between studying and leading the herd of family-owned cows. In 2003, at the age of 17 and a high school student, Hachalu was arrested for taking part in protests against the Tigrinya regime and sentenced to five years in prison at Karchale Ambo prison.
His musical career began in prison. In 2009, after his release, he launched his first album ‘Sanyii Mootii’ followed by the second album ‘Whaa’ee Keenyaa’ which made him conquer the first place on the international ranking of African music on Amazon.
Hundessa’s protest songs unified the Oromo people, encouraging them to resist the Tigrinya oppression. His songs were closely linked to the anti-government resistance that began in 2015 and the Ethiopian protests in 2016. His ballad ‘Maalan Jira’ concerned the displacement of the Oromo population from Addis Ababa. The capital is in the heart of the Oromo State but the government, determined to transform it into a pour of concrete and skyscrapers to glorify a false myth of progress, had decided to expel the Oromos from the building lands on the outskirts of Addi Ababa to build other monstrous buildings and public housing, testimony of the ‘Ethiopian Miracle’.
Months after the release of the single in June 2015, protests took place against the Addis Ababa Master Plan throughout the Oromia region. The song became an anthem for protesters and became one of the most viewed Oromo music videos. In December 2017, Hundessa sang in a gigantic concert in Addis Ababa that raised funds for the 700,000 Oromos who were displaced due to ethnic violence and broadcast live on the Oromia Broadcasting Network.
There is no doubt that the murder of Hachalu Hundessa has political motivations and is closely linked to his social commitment to the Oromos, even if at the moment there is no evidence linking the brutal extrajudicial execution with the Prime Minister’s government. Addis Ababa police commissioner Geta Argaw said the suspects of the murder have already been arrested without giving their identity.
Government repression was not limited to protests. YawarMohammed (media magnate who belongs to the Oromo ethnic group and a fierce critic of the current government) was stormed yesterday by special units of the federal police who arrested the employees. Even Mohammed together with Bekele Garba, an important opposition leader, were arrestedon the same day.
Human rights groups have accused Abyi government security forces of executing using excessive force to contain yesterday’s demonstrations and taking advantage of the chaos to arrest important opposition leaders and shut the mouths to independent media. According to Ethiopian associations, these actions are “in line” with the policy of extrajudicial executions, rapes, arbitrary arrests carried out by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. They also accuse the government of failing to bring police officers accused of the death of dozens of anti-government protests that broke out late last year to justice.
The speech on Prime Minister Ahmed’s national TV radio was considered a political flop. Offering condolences to the singer’s family and promising a serious investigation, he invited the population to remain calm and peaceful. Abiydefined Hundessa’s murder as “an evil act” by stating that it was commissioned and inspired by domestic and foreign enemies in order “to destabilize our peace and prevent us from reaching the projects we have started“.
The clear reference to Egypt (that the Ethiopian government risks a conflict due to the intransigence shown on the delicate water dispute over the Nile waters) has galvanized the protests that are spreading even among the Amara who accuse Abiy of proposing false tracks in an attempt to escape the responsibility for the long-established national crisis.
Scant news from Ethiopia having been isolated from the outside world by government decision. Some fragmentary and verifiable information speaks of clashes in the capital and other cities of the country after the Prime Minister’s decision to remove the body of singer Oromo from the hospital and to have transported him to an unknown location. According to these sources, the police also fired on demonstrators today and the death toll rose to 50. Exclusively ‘L’Indro‘ publishes the images received by the editorial staff on the popular uprising following the murder of Hachalu Hundessa.
What appears to be a politically motivated extrajudicial execution and subsequent riots could detonate the minefield on which Prime Minister Abiy is moving, which is facing a dramatic internal crisis characterized by the worsening of the ethnic clash between Tigrini, Amara, Oromo due to postponement of general elections. A crisis associated with the risk of a regional war against Egypt and Sudan over the Great Renaissance dam.
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