US Oromos Protest Singer Hachalu’s Death

US Oromos Protest Singer Hachalu’s Death

Voice of America, 13th July 2020


(Big News Network) — Nearly two weeks after the slaying of a popular singer in Ethiopia, thousands took to the streets in diaspora communities in the United States and elsewhere to mourn his death and peacefully protest against the government in Addis Ababa.

In downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, home to the largest U.S. population of ethnic Oromo, a crowd of roughly 1,500 people blocked an interstate highway for more than an hour Friday evening.

The death of Hachalu Hundessa, 34, who was shot and killed in Addis Ababa on June 29, has seemingly galvanized the Oromo diaspora against the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Henok Gabisa, a professor of practice at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, told VOA earlier this month that Hachalu’s music was “the soundtrack of the Oromo revolution.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune quoted one local Oromo woman as saying the arrest of a prominent opposition leader, Jawar Mohammed, who at one time had lived in exile in Minnesota, also drew the local Oromo community to Friday’s protest.

“The Oromo people want elections, they want the freedom to choose who are the leaders of their country,” said Zemu Tuke, of Minneapolis, who was among the hundreds of people marching on Interstate 35W on Friday. At least 40,000 Oromos live in Minnesota, the community estimated.

Ethiopia Attorney General Adanech Abebe on Friday named three suspects in Hachalu’s death and blamed a breakaway armed faction of the Oromo Liberation Front for being behind the killing. She said two of the people had been arrested, and the third was still being sought.

Ethiopian officials said Friday that nearly 5,000 people have been arrested and at least 239 killed as a result of the protests. After Hachalu’s death, internet service was cut off in Ethiopia. The service was still unavailable Saturday.

Protests have taken place around the world this past week.

On Monday, hundreds of protesters, mostly young adults, marched to the U.S. State Department in Washington, demanding justice and an independent investigation into Hachalu’s killing.

The protesters delivered a letter of demanding, among others, the release of opposition leaders from the Oromo Federalist Congress and Oromo Liberation Front who were arrested after the artist’s killing, Janet Adem, chairwoman of the Oromo Community of Washington, D.C., said.

“Two years ago, when the Ethiopian prime minister came to engage with the diaspora, we showed up with our flags and expressed our support. We thought he was for real democratization and reconciliation,” Adem said. “Then came killings in West and Southern Oromia,” she said. “The Abiy administration did not answer the Oromo questions. It showed it can’t answer the demands of nations and nationalities.”

On Tuesday, the Oromo community in Portland, Oregon, held a rally.

“Hachalu is a person who touched every generation,” Eddie Argo, 38, one of the organizers of the Portland rally, told VOA by phone. “Those of us who grew up abroad including those who were born and raised in the United States love him for his work … even my friends who don’t speak the Oromo language well. For one to be loved by those who do not speak the language you sing with shows that he has done something extraordinary. That is Hachalu. My community – young and old – everyone is shocked by his assassination.”

On Wednesday, hundreds protesting Hachalu’s death in Oslo, Norway, and Melbourne, Australia.

Protesters say they will continue to hold rallies and mourn Hachalu.

Tigist Geme contributed to this article.

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