A Tribute to Our Hero – Haacaaluu Hundeessa
Guluma Gemeda, PhD, July 3, 2020
During the darkest hours of the last Oromo Protests, when we were anxious and angered by the repression of the TPLF/EPRDF regime, losing thousands of our youth, Haacaaluu entertained us, comforted us, uplifted our spirits, and helped us not only to survive but to continue fighting and dismantling the repressive regime. His voice was clear, and his message was resolute. He was a giant who towered over the tallest persons and the most powerful politicians. He was a fearless artist who spoke truth to power. In his songs and on the stage, Haacaaluu did not hesitate to use his artistic talent to tell the truth, even at the risk of his life.
In his songs, Haacaaluu told stories. His lyrics summoned our heroes and heroines and invited the qeerrroo and qarree to follow their models. He called out Menelik as person who stole the prized horse of an Oromo warrior. Haacaaluu’s artistic work has no place for the traitors of the Oromo people, in the past or at the present. That is why he is our hero.
On June 29, 2020, this great hero is taken away from us. He was gunned down by a brutal killer. The killer may have pulled out and fired the gun that claimed the life of our hero, but he may have not acted alone. There are many accomplices—individuals and groups, who have directly or indirectly enabled the crime. Before Haacaaluu’s assassination, a group of anti-Oromo demagogues had created an echo chamber of hate and condemnation of the artist, particularly after he interviewed on the Oromia Media Network (OMN) criticizing King Menelik. The haters were, of course, less concerned about the defamation of Menelik than their hatred for the artist and the Oromo people. Second, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is directly responsible for Haaccaluu’s death because it was his rhetoric that empowered the neo-nafxenya demagogues. When the people needed to understand each and the time to heal the wounds of the brutal past, the prime minister embarked on renovating Menelik’s old palace and revived the image of the king’s wars of conquest which are etched in the memories of the Oromo and other conquered peoples. In his desire to revive Ethiopia’s ‘glorious past’ (which is controversial), the prime minister was insensitive to the concerns of people who had been wronged by the same past. The insensitivity of his government has polluted the environment and created the specter that led to the killing of Haacaaluu Hundessaa.
This great hero is buried today (July 2) in Ambo under politically tense situation, rather unceremoniously, without the national honor and farewell that he truly deserved. No dignitaries were present at the funeral ceremony; nor did the millions of funs of the Artist attend it. The demand of many Oromo leaders to bury the hero in Finfinee was denied by the regime.
Now, we are left with the artist’s brilliant works. Haacaaluu’s life is cut short; he is silenced by a brutal killer and uncaring regime. But his voices will continue to ring in our minds for many generations to come. How can we forget his songs Waa’ee Keenya, Maalan Jiraa and Jirra, and his checking on us – Jirtuu? Although Haacaaluu may not hear our resolute and roaring responses anymore, we will continue to say “Jirraa”.
May his soul REST IN PEACE.