More than 160 killed in Ethiopia protests over singer’s murder

Police confirm at least 166 deaths in violent protests over killing of popular Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa.

Ethiopian military ride on their pick-up truck as they patrol the streets following protests in Addis Ababa
Members of the Ethiopian military patrol the streets following protests in Addis Ababa [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

At least 166 people have died during violent demonstrations that roiled Ethiopia in the days following the murder of popular singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa, police said.

“In the aftermath of Hachalu’s death, 145 civilians and 11 security forces have lost their lives in the unrest in the region,” said Girma Gelam, deputy police commissioner of Oromia region, in a statement on the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate on Saturday.

Another 10 people are known to have died in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Girma said a further 167 had “sustained serious injuries” and that 1,084 people had been arrested.   

Pop star Haacaaluu, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, was shot dead by unknown attackers in Addis Ababa on Monday night, heightening ethnic tensions and threatening the country’s democratic transition.

Five people have been arrested in connection with his killing.

Officials have repeatedly suggested the Oromo Liberation Front, a rebel group, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, an opposition party, were implicated.

Can Ethiopia bridge its ethnic divide? | Inside Story

Officials have attributed the deaths to a combination of lethal force by security officers and inter-ethnic violence.

Girma added that the violent unrest had now “completely stopped”.

Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Haacaaluu‘s killing and the subsequent violence represented “coordinated attempts” to destabilise the country.

Three high-profile opposition leaders – including former media mogul Jawar Mohammed – have been arrested in connection with the unrest, though officials have provided few details about the cases against them.

Haacaaluu, 36, the Oromo-language singer and song writer was buried on Thursday under heavy police and military presence in his hometown of Ambo, about 100km (62 miles) west of Addis Ababa.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

Haacaaluu’s music gave voice to Oromos’ widespread sense of economic and political marginalisation during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies