Ethiopian authorities said they have arrested two suspects over the killing of a popular political singer, whose death last week sparked protests in which hundreds of people were killed.
The shooting of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, a musician widely revered among his Oromo ethnic group, ignited protests in Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromiya region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described his killing as “an evil act”.
In a televised statement aired on Friday, Attorney General Adanech Abebe said the attacker was acting on the orders of an anti-government group, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shene).
The two men who were arrested included the suspected attacker and an accomplice. A third suspect was still at large, Adenech said.
“We have arrested those who killed him, and those who collaborated in the killing,” Adanech said in the statement. “We will continue to ensure the rule of law.”
“The assassination was intended to be a cover to take power from the incumbent by force,” Adanech said, without providing details.
The suspects have not yet been charged.
Haacaaluu sang in Oromo, the language of Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group. His killing tapped into grievances heightened by decades of government repression and what the Oromo describe as their long exclusion from political power.
Abiy, himself an Oromo, came to power in 2018 as the first modern Ethiopian leader from that ethnic group, after months of violent demonstrations led to his predecessor’s resignation.
The unrest last week was the deadliest since Abiy took office. At least 239 people were killed, according to police figures. The prime minister has initiated a broad package of political and economic reforms in what has long been one of the most tightly controlled countries in Africa, and won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for making peace with neighbouring Eritrea.
But the increased freedoms under his leadership have also been accompanied by a rise in ethnic violence, and some Oromo figures say he has not done enough to address their long-standing grievances.
Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office, a complaint echoed by many protesters last week.
The internet remained shut off Friday for an 11th consecutive day, though Addis Ababa remains calm and Abiy’s office issued a statement saying the surrounding Oromia region had “returned to calm and citizens have resumed normal activities”.
In her statement, however, Adanech said unnamed agitators were calling for additional protests and road blockages in the coming days.
“There are those that have hidden themselves in nice places but are calling on Ethiopian youth to fight each other, close roads and to cease working as part of a rebellion call,” the attorney general said.
“Above all we call on our people to disobey this rebellion call and to thwart it.”