Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Turmoil at Ethiopian Activist Funeral after 90 Protesters Die

Thu 02 Jul 2020 | 07:56 PM

On Thursday, two more Ethiopian protesters were shot dead and seven others injured when soldiers opened fire on mourners seeking to attend the funeral of a popular Ethiopian singer, whose assassination sparked violence that has left more than 90 dead.

Hachalu Hundessa, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia's largest, was shot dead by unknown attackers in the capital Addis Ababa on Monday night, fueling ethnic tensions threatening the country's democratic transition.

His music gave voice to Oromos' widespread sense of economic and political marginalization during years of anti-government protests that brought Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018.

A medical official in the town and an opposition member said that security forces had blocked roads leading to the funeral, and fired at crowds trying to make their way there.

“There has been an operation today related to the funeral. Nine people have been shot and two of them have died in our hospital,” said the official at the Ambo referral hospital on condition of anonymity.

Filenbar Uma, a member of the opposition Oromo Liberation Front in Ambo, said he feared the death toll could be higher, describing security forces shooting as “people were kept from going” to the funeral.

 'True freedom fighter'

Hachalu's casket was driven into the stadium in Ambo in a black car, accompanied by a brass band and men on horseback. He was later buried at an Orthodox church in the town.

“He was a true freedom fighter,” Belay Aqenaw, the funeral's organizer, said in a speech. “He was a singer who raised our spirits.”

Hachalu's death sparked protests in the capital and across the Oromia region — the largest of the country's ethnic federal states — which surrounds Addis Ababa.

A total of 81 deaths were recorded in Oromia, which regional officials attributed to deadly force used by police as well as inter-ethnic killings.

Prime Minister Abiy, winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, said in a statement on Wednesday night that those behind Hachalu's death sought to derail his reform agenda and “kill Ethiopia”.

“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,” Abiy said.

“Choosing the first is to willingly aid them in our demise.”

Addis violence

The streets of Addis were relatively calm on Thursday, though traffic was sparse and many shops remained closed.

Officials have not provided casualty figures for the capital, though the US embassy said in a security advisory late on Wednesday that eight people had been killed there, including two Ethiopian Federal Police officers.

“Looting of shops and residence areas has worsened”, the advisory said, noting that three banks had been robbed and four fuel service stations burnt