Ethiopia — Death Toll Reaches 239 in Unrest

  • “Due to the unrest that occurred in the region, nine police officers, five militia members and 215 civilians have lost their lives.”
  • Ten other people were reported to have died due to the protests in the capital, Addis Ababa.
  • "To control this unrest, more than 3,500 suspects have been arrested."

At least 239 people were killed and dozens others arrested due to the unrest in Ethiopia following the death of a local musician, Hachalu Hundessa. The regional police commissioner, Mustafa Kedir, said that the Oromia region lost 229 people. It was hardest hit and home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.

Hachalu Hundessa was an Ethiopian singer, songwriter and protestor. Hundessa was shot on the evening of 29 June 2020 at the Gelan Condominiums area in Addis Ababa.

“Due to the unrest that occurred in the region, nine police officers, five militia members and 215 civilians have lost their lives,” Kedir said on state television. Ten other people were reported to have died due to the protests in the capital, Addis Ababa. The deaths are blamed on use of excessive force by security personnel and inter-ethnic violence. The death toll has risen from last week’s 167.

“To control this unrest, more than 3,500 suspects have been arrested. They were anti- peace elements who carried out attacks using the artist’s death as a pretext to dismantle the constitutional peace by force,” he added.

Last week, a prominent politician in Ethiopia, Jawar Mohammedappeared in court. It is alleged that Jawar had intercepted the body of the musician, which was being ferried to his homeland.

Jawar is a top Oromo leader, and has been on the forefront in calling for the rights of Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country. He had supported the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is an Oromo like himself, but has turned to a major critic of his.

The protests erupted when thousands of fans went to the hospital, where his body was taken. This forced the police to use tear gas to disperse the crowd that had set tires on fire. They had tried to prevent the body from being taken to his hometown of Ambo, about 100 kilometers west of the capital, insisting that he should be buried in the city.

Authorities confirmed that dozens were injured and property destroyed during the protests on Tuesday. The internet was also shut down. The military was deployed in Ethiopia’s capital as protests continued following the death of the local musician. Gangs armed with machetes and sticks roamed the streets as gunshots could be heard in the city.

The 34 year-old Musician was attacked and shot at as he was driving in the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa.  It is alleged that Halachu had received death threats previously. The motive for the death remains unclear, but the police have said that two people have been arrested in connection to the killing. The police added that the killing appeared to be well planned.

The Oromo people are a Cushitic ethnic group and nation native to Ethiopia who speak the Oromo language. They are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and represent 34.5% of Ethiopia’s population.

Haacaaluu was buried amid tight security in his homeland. His funeral service at a stadium in Ambo was attended by a few hundred, as most people chose to follow the service on television.

Halachu was popularly known for his political songs that focused on the rights of country’s Oromo ethnic group. Many considered him a voice of the Oromo people, since his songs highlighted the political and economic marginalization that the ethnic group had suffered in the hands of leaders.

His songs became a national anthem in 2018, after the downfall of the prime minister. When Halachu was 17 years old, he was imprisoned for taking part in protests, and although many like him fled the country and went into exile, he remained and rallied for change.

The prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, condemned Halachu’s death, calling it an evil act. “This is an act committed and inspired by foreign and domestic enemies in order to destabilize our peace and stopping us from achieving what we started,” he said.

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Juliet Norah

I am a freelance journalist is passionate about news. I derive pleasure in informing people about the happenings in the world

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