Ethiopia Tense for the Funeral of Hachalu Hundessa

Haacaaluu Hundeessa’s music has given sound and voice to the Oromo struggle.

Security was tight across Ethiopia on Thursday for the funeral of revered singer and musician Hachalu Hundessa, whose killing this week sparked riots in and around Addis Ababa, killing at least 80.

Hundessa was an outspoken ethnic Oromo activist who helped lead protests that brought about a new pro-Oromo government two years ago.

Hundessa was laid to rest in his hometown of Ambo, and Ethiopian television broadcast his funeral.

"Our enemies think they will create a conflict and dismantle the country," Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said. "However, this incident gives us the understanding of the thought and the situation and makes us unite together and stop them. I ask our people to stand together with the government so that our enemies should not get a chance to implement their objective."

Hundessa Bonssaa, Hachalu Hundessa's father, pleaded with his slain son to keep seeking justice.

Abiy said his government will do everything it can to restore calm to Ethiopia. Police say three people have been arrested in Hundessa's killing. They gave no details, but the prime minister said it could have ties to the assassination of the chief of the Ethiopian army last year.

The government immediately cut internet and mobile phone service in Ethiopia during the violence, a move human rights observers say only adds to the anxiety.

Hundessa was gunned down Monday night in Addis Ababa, a week after he appeared on Oromia Media Network, where he criticized Ethiopia's leadership and spoke out against the mass incarceration of Oromo youth.

Hundessa was Oromo, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, which has a long history of being discriminated against.

The singer was a former political prisoner who became a national figure during anti-government protests that led to Abiy, a fellow Oromo, becoming prime minister in 2018.

Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for economic and social reforms in Ethiopia and working to settle the long-running conflict with neighboring Eritrea.

But he has also been challenged by the dozens of other Ethiopian ethnic groups jockeying for more land and power.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced officials to postpone the August elections until sometime next year.

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