Hachaluu Hundeesa: a homage from a historian
Abbas H. Gnamo, PhD, July 3, 2020
I cannot express the depth of my sorrow by the untimely death of our hero, Hachaluu Hundeesa. With this assassination, the forces of evil took away a hugely talented artist, and a social leader with a big heart and charisma who simply marked his generation. He inspired his people to stand up and fight for their freedom and dignity. He went to jail for doing so at the age of 17 for 5 years. He was determined to sacrifice for the causes he believed in the quest for dignity and freedom of his people.
Coming out of the prison, he showed us his unbelievable talent through his poetry and songs. He made both Oromo and many non-Oromo to appreciate the beauty of Oromo language; his innovative and multifaceted songs and geerersaa (war songs, love songs, historical repertoires, and protest songs) in the best Oromo tradition mobilized and inspired the entire generation of Qeerroo and Qarree in the fight for injustice, oppression and marginalization. He was deeply humanitarian reaching out and raising funds for internally displaced persons, for fellow struggling artists. He was a tireless advocate for the rights prisoners of conscience in a country where human rights are routinely violated. After all, he was one of them for 5 years.
He was among the champions of change and hope through social activism and arts. Hachaluu, personified what is best in us, a role-model for the youth and, as such, was admired and respected by people of all walks of life, generations, Oromo, non-Oromo alike. His music healed, inspired and bridged the ideological the political and divide in our people. He reminded us the history of our great nation and its contribution to preserve the independence of the empire, the oft-overlooked role, where they continued to undergo exclusion and marginalization by these thankless and genocidal kings and contemporary leaders.
Speaking about the inconvenient truth, may have offended the Neo-Naftagna crowd and their coolies. He was unapologetic about the harsh Oromo experience in the Ethiopian empire (serfdom, slavery, a second-class citizenship), without any fear and qualm, a fact which can be proven with facts and figures. In fact, this is the opposite to the narrative of mythical/beautiful Ethiopia to the dislike of those who are imbued with imperial nostalgia and like to present the country as a paradise on earth. They are working day and night to return the “glory and honor the past”. He may have fallen at the hands of these haters who do not share his political views. The Ethiopian leaders dishonored themselves by not honoring him as it should be – His funerals deserved due respect than what it was given by the greedy leaders whom he and the Qeerroo generation helped to accede to power. Time will come when the Oromo will celebrate this beloved son in the strong nation 50,000,000.
The forces of evil took his life at this young age; they deprived us from exceptional talent and a wonderful human being. Above all, they deprived his beautiful children from a loving father and his wife from a loving husband. The disappearance of a unique talent who embodied generosity, bravery and intelligence is deeply resented by all of us. But this will not kill the soul and spirit of our people. Rather, it will make our nation stronger and more resolute to complete the journey of freedom he embarked on.
I do not know him closely to say more. However, I followed his artistic career and his commitment to his people as well as the way he wrote and delivered his songs including his inspiring protest songs. The only time I met him in Minneapolis, I told him the extent to which I adored the melodies and content of his songs. On the same day, I quoted him at the OSA conference his Maasan gamaa lafa baatu, the best known gabbar lyric, which showed the depth of Oromo grievance against the Ethiopian state and ruthless naftagna landlords who exploited and humiliated them over many generations.
It is often said life is short; and the forces of evil made Hachaluu’s life even shorter – he was only 34. But, in the time he had on this world, he gave us tremendously and his dedication and accomplishment are indelible from our memories. He continues to inspire the generations to come. Haachallu will be remembered as an exceptional talent and artist with a strong social conscience for justice, equality and democracy. Despite a profound injustice and the void that his premature departure causes to our nation, we always thank him and cherish the rich legacy he left behind. In the meantime they will sing
Massaan gamaa lafa hin baatu
Talbaa fachafta taati
Tokko du’ee tokko hin nyaatu
Wol gagalafata taati
Rest in peace.
Abbas H. Gnamo, PhD