‘My heart is broken’: Sioux Falls Oromo community speaks out against unrest in Ethiopia
(Argus Leader) — When 9-year-old Mubarak heard of the death of one of his favorite singers, he was devastated.
The Sioux Falls boy with ties to Ethiopia had met the popular and influential Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa just a few years ago at a soccer game in Minnesota. News of Hundessa’s death has thrust forward political unrest in Ethiopia and rattled Oromo communities, including those who live in Sioux Falls.
“I was very sad,” he said, adding that his uncle is in Africa now, and that he can’t call him because networks there have been shut down.
A group of more than 100 gathered in downtown Sioux Falls on Monday morning to raise a voice for those who couldn’t in Ethiopia. Many were wearing masks, and some said they haven’t gone out in public much since the pandemic started, but felt compelled to speak out for this cause.
“There is no justice in Ethiopia,” said demonstrator Walabu Aman. “We are demanding justice, to free all the political prisoners and find out who killed our singer.”
Hundessa, an activist and singer, was shot and killed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on June 29. Hundessa, who is from the Oromia Region, was seen as a hero by locals. His songs often focused on the rights and became anthems of Oromo people, the largest ethnic group of Ethiopia, during protests that led to the downfall of the country’s previous prime minister in 2018, according to the BBC.
More than 100 people have died in protests in response to Hundessa’s death, according to the BBC. Internet has been shut down across the country, and people in Sioux Falls haven’t been able to contact family in Ethiopia, they said.
“The last time we heard (from our family) they were so scared,” said 21-year-old Sioux Falls resident Samson Argo. “My heart is broken … We want peace and justice.”
Those who spoke up near Sixth Street and Main Avenue on Monday say they believe current Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed must go because he has arrested members of opposing political parties and shut down the internet. The group chanted “Abiy is a killer” and “down, down Abiy” along Main Avenue before stopping in front of the Multi-Cultural Center.
“We’re here to be a voice for our people back home,” said Jemal Jodi. “They killed our superstar, people are being arrested like crazy. Everything is shut down. There are people killed every day.”
The group wanted to make clear they weren’t protesting a particular Ethiopian group, but rather calling for justice in Ethiopia.