oromo legend

Ethiopia: Popular Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa shot dead

By Anne-Marie Bissada

Posted on June 30, 2020 10:32

Hachalu Hundessa, a popular and beloved Ethiopian musician and activist, was shot dead in the capital Monday night.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the shooting, the 34-year old had been receiving death threats. 

News of his death saw thousands of his fans make their way to his hospital in Addis Ababa. In an effort to control the crowds, police used tear gas to disperse his fans.

The internet has also been shut down following reported riots in the capital following news of his death.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his condolences, adding they are awaiting the results of a police investigation. He has also called on mourners to be vigilant to prevent any further violence.

Oromo ethnic group

Hundessa belongs to the Oromo ethnic group; one of the largest minorities in the country, with some estimating them to comprise between 25 to 40 percent of the population.

READ MORE Ethiopia: Selling Prosperity Party to the Oromo is Abiy’s greatest challenge

While the Oromo people are spread out across the country, they are united by a shared language, which is also widely spoken in northern Kenya and parts of Somalia.

But despite their large numbers, they have long complained of social and economic exclusion by the Ethiopian government. Growing demands for independence from Ethiopia has provoked pushback – at times deadly – from the government.

The Oromo are credited with the wave of protests that erupted in 2016 and eventually led to the downfall of the previous prime minister.

READ MORE Ethiopia’s prime minister resigns amid pressure to end protests

Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was eventually replaced by Mr Abiy Ahmed, who is Oromo himself.

READ MORE Ethiopia’s leadership race: the Oromo leader at the front

At the start of his mandate, he was commended for having brought in a series of reforms.

Legacy of Hachalu Hundessa

Hachalu’s lyrics often focused on the rights of the country’s Oromo ethnic group, often to the ire of nationalists.

“…we are talking about the death of perhaps the most influential musician beloved by millions. The emotions, the heartache and the uproar will rock the country,” writes Ethiopian journalist Zecharias Zelalem.

The death of an “Oromo icon” could be a catalyst for a major backlash warns Rashid Abdi, a researcher at the Research and Evidence Facility (REF) on migration in the Horn Of Africa.

“A large scale backlash will almost certainly topple PM Abiy, already bleeding suporting Oromo heartland,” he adds.

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