Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa laid to rest amid ethnic unrest


Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa was laid to rest in his home town of Ambo as unrest continues to spread in the Oromia region where he is seen as a hero.

Eighty one people have already been killed in protests since Hachalu was shot dead on Monday night while troops have been deployed in the capital, Addis Ababa, where armed gangs were roaming to target ethnic Oromos.

The motive for the killing of Hachalu remains unclear, but before he died, the 34-year-old had said he had received death threats.

Hachalu songs focused on the rights of the country’s Oromo people, the country’s largest ethnic group, and became anthems in a wave of protests that led to the downfall of the previous prime minister in 2018.

“Hachalu is not dead. He will remain in my heart and the hearts of millions of Oromo people forever,” the Reuters news agency quotes his widow Santu Demisew Diro as saying at the funeral.

The ceremony took place at a stadium in Hachalu’s hometown of Ambo, west of the capital, and was broadcast live on Oromo Broadcasting Network television.

“I request a monument erected in his memory in Addis where his blood was spilt,” Ms. Santu said.

There are reports that mourners had tried to delay the funeral until the release of influential Oromo politician Jawar Mohammed.

Dozens of people have been detained, including Mr. Jawar, who was arrested after protesters tried to block Hachalu’s body from leaving the capital on Tuesday.

On Thursday, the media mogul, who has led calls for more rights for the Oromo who feel they been politically marginalised by previous governments, appeared in court in Addis Ababa. His case was adjourned for two weeks.

He supported reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, himself an Oromo, when he came to power in April 2018 but has since become an ardent critic.

On Wednesday, Mr. Abiy warned that those behind Hachalu’s death wanted to derail his reform programme.

“This week, a very heinous crime was committed on artist Hachalu Hundessa. Those who planned the crime are those who are not happy with the current change in the country.

“We have two choices as a people. To fall into the trap being set up by detractors or to deviate from their trap and stay on the course of reforms. Choosing the first is to willingly aid them in our demise,” the prime minister said.

The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, have long complained of being politically sidelined. (Source: BBC)