5 things to know about Ethiopia’s recent ethnic unrest

By Tatenda Marwodzi

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One of Ethiopia’s deadliest civil unrest unleashed last week following the murder of popular Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa. Here are 5 things to know about the unfortunate events that unfolded.

1. Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo musician was mysteriously shot dead.Hachalu Hundessa, 34, was mysteriously murdered in Addis Ababa a week after receiving death threats for his activism. Hachalu was a popular singer who’s music was centred around liberating the Oromo. Particularly, his single “Malaan Jira” (What existence is mine) was used as a national anthem during the 2018 protests that overthrew the oppressive Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn from power. Hachalu was adored by the Oromo for standing up for their rights.

“Hachalu was the soundtrack of the Oromo revolution, a lyrical genius and an activist who embodied the hopes and aspirations of the Oromo public,” said Keele University Law lecturer Awol Allo.

2. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s most marginalized ethnic group.The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest yet most politically and economically marginalised group. Since the late 19th century when Emperor Menelik II was in power, millions of Oromos have been displaced from the capital city of Addis Ababa. The apparent exclusion of the group from economic and political activities has always given rise to ethnic tensions in the country.

3. Several killed and injured during protests. The public perceived Hachulu’s murder as an attack on the Oromo ethnic group which lead to deadly protests in the Oromia region and Addis Ababa. Police reported to state broadcaster that a total of 166 civilians died at the hands of security forces and more than 2000 arrested during the week-long protests. Among those arrested is popular activist Jawar Mohammed.

4. The internet was shut down to stop protests. At exactly 9 am on Tuesday, the government ordered a complete shutdown of the internet to stop protests.

5. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s response. Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, received a Nobel peace prize for resolving the country’s conflict with Eritrea. Now he faces conflict in his own backyard and the world is watching closely. While many have criticized the prime minister for unleashing security forces on protesting civilians, Abiy has been commended for promising to bring justice for Hachalu. He urged his fellow kinsman to stop the demonstrations.

“We have two choices as a people. To fall into the trap set 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,” he said.

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