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Ethiopia

Popular Ethiopian singer Hundeessaa buried amid tension as internet shutdown continues

Protester holds up an Oromo flag during a demonstration about the killing of musician and activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, in St Paul, Minnesota on 30 June 2020.
Protester holds up an Oromo flag during a demonstration about the killing of musician and activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, in St Paul, Minnesota on 30 June 2020. AFP - Stephen Maturen
4 min

At least six people were injured on Thursday in clashes between mourners and security forces in the Ethiopian town of Ambo as people gathered for the funeral of activist and singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, according to the Reuters news agency. 

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Local residents said security forces lined the streets of Ambo and tried to stop mourners from entering the stadium, firing in the air, Reuters said, describing injured people at the local hospital receiving treatment for gunshot wounds. 

Addis Standard newspaper reported tight security in the city, some 90 kilometres west of Addis Ababa. Haacaaluu’s father spoke at the ceremony, saying that his son was “unjustly killed”. 

The singer’s wife, Santu Demisew Diro, said the singer will remain in the hearts of the Oromo people, calling for a statue of him to erected in the capital, Reuters said. 

Haacaaluu was shot dead in Addis Ababa on Monday by unknown gunmen, sparking widespread demonstrations and clashes that have killed at least 80 people. 

Oromo marginalisation 

The popular singer’s music formed part of the Oromo protest movement, which helped forced the resignation of the prime minister in 2018, leading to the appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. 

Many Oromos feel excluded from political power and in recent months have started to accuse Abiy of not looking out for the Oromo people. 

Haacaaluu’s songs provided a soundtrack for a generation of Oromo protesters whose three years of anti-government demonstrations finally forced the resignation of the prime minister in 2018 and the appointment of the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the country’s first Oromo prime minister. 

The Oromo have long complained of exclusion from political power. In recent months, some Oromo activists who initially supported Abiy have become more critical, accusing him of not protecting the interests of the Oromo people.  

Ethiopian authorities cut access to internet in the country on Tuesday, with NetBlocks, an organisation that monitors internet connectivity, reporting continuing restrictions on Friday morning and less than 9 percent of normal traffic. 

A global coalition of human rights groups called #KeepItOn criticised Abiy’s decision to restrict access, calling it an “arbitrary use of internet shutdowns by the Government of Ethiopia in response to protests and unrest in the country”. 

Haacaaluu’s killing sparked protests in cities across the world, with hundreds of people from the Ethiopian diaspora gathering in St Paul, Minnesota urging the US government to stop supporting Abiy’s administration, according to reports from US media. 

New York-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said, “the government’s responses to the protesters risks enflaming long-simmering tensions”. HRW said Addis Ababa must lift the internet shutdown, stop using force against demonstrations and free political prisoners. 

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