Popular Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundess shot dead in Addis Ababa

Angry youths have burned tyres and blocked roads in the Ethiopian capital after the police announced the death of a popular musician who was shot in Addis Ababa. 

Haacaaluu Hundeessaa – also known as Hachalu Hundessa – was an ethnic-Oromo musician known for his protest songs. He was shot in the capital city’s Gelan Condominiums area late on Monday, Addis Ababa’s police commissioner Geta Argaw said.

Argaw said police had arrested several suspects, the state-affiliated Fana broadcaster reported.

On Tuesday morning the normally busy streets of Addis Ababa were eerily empty as protesters lit fires and chanted slogans. The Internet connection to Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, appeared to be down, a common occurrence during political protests.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his condolences, saying Ethiopia had “lost a precious life”.

“I express my deep condolences for those of us who are in deep sorrow since the news of the death of the shining young Artist Hachalu Hundesa,” Fana reported the prime minister as saying. “We are expecting full investigation reports of this evil act.”

“Let us express our condolences by keeping ourselves safe and preventing further crime,” Abiy said.

Ethiopians on social media, including the country’s ambassador to Washington, expressed their shock at the killing of the popular musician.

Meanwhile, the US embassy said it was “monitoring reports of protest and unrest, including gunfire throughout Addis Ababa”.

It also said there was a protest outside the US embassy.

“Police have been deployed around the city in response to reports of violence. The situation is volatile at this time. Please remain in your homes until further notice.”

Hachalu, a former political prisoner, rose to prominence during prolonged anti-government protests, which propelled Abiy, a fellow Oromo, into office in 2018. The Oromo ethnic group, which has historically faced discrimination, led the mass protests.

Abiy’s rise to power ended decades of political dominance by ethnic Tigray leaders in the multi-ethnic nation.

His rule has ushered in greater political and economic freedoms in what had long been one of the continent’s most repressive states. He was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his reforms and his work to end the conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

But the rise in political activism has also led to an increase in unrest in a country made up of more than 80 ethnic groups. Abiy’s rule has been frequently challenged by local powerbrokers demanding more access to land, power and resources.

His pan-Ethiopian politics have sparked a backlash from some elements of his own Oromo powerbase, spearheaded by media magnate Jawar Mohammed.

“They did not just kill Hachalu. They shot at the heart of the Oromo Nation, once again !!…You can kill us, all of us, you can never ever stop us!! NEVER !!” Jawar posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Clashes between police and Jawar’s supporters killed at least 78 people in October last year after the government tried to withdraw Jawar’s security detail.

Elections due this year have been postponed until next year due to COVID-19 in a deal agreed with the major opposition parties.

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