Anyone who steps into the public sphere in Ethiopia is also a potential political leader. In this atmosphere, an outspoken musician runs a high risk of falling foul of the authorities. One such story unfolded last week — the inexplicable, and still unresolved, murder in Addis Ababa of Hachalu Hundessa , the year-old singer from the southern region of Oromia. The country is still stunned. Addis Ababa has erupted in protests that have left scores dead and dozens arrested. With the arrests of Oromo leaders, protests have spread as far as Minneapolis and London, cities with Oromo diasporas. Politically motivated killings are certainly nothing new for Ethiopia, but this particular murder has touched the biggest nerve in decades, in part because Hachalu Hundessa was perceived to be a man of the people. The murder is consistent with an ongoing story of musicians as political dissidents in a tinderbox regime. As perhaps the most beloved Oromo musician, he was a pre-eminent cultural figure for a third of the population — some 35 million people. His murder illustrates the total enmeshing of cultural, political and economic challenges in a country experiencing seismic changes.
Undeclared spokesman for the Oromo
A man brimming with empathy
Haacaaluu inspired a whole generation of Oromos to fight for their rights. His tragic death is an incalculable loss. There are not many artists in East Africa who get to witness their own stellar achievement in their lifetime. Such was the explosive impact of Haacaaluu's songs that many within his Oromo community saw him as indispensable to their struggle for political emancipation. Haacaaluu inspired the Qubee generation ethnic Oromos born after Ethiopia was restructured along ethno-linguistic lines in and educated in their mother tongue and his music served as a rallying anthem during the Oromo protests and beyond. His intensely political lyrics both refined and clarified the enduring nature of state-sponsored Oromo marginalisation. When Haacaaluu was assassinated by unidentified assailants on June 29 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia lost not just a strikingly talented musician, but also a political and cultural icon. His assassination sent shockwaves across the country, particularly in Oromia, the Oromo-majority region of Ethiopia, and triggered major protests in Addis Ababa and elsewhere. At least people have been killed in the ensuing clashes and more than 1, arrested, including leading figures of the Oromo opposition parties, such as Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, Shigut Geleta, and others.
Refused to go into exile
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More than 80 people have been killed in two days of unrest in Ethiopia following the killing of prominent singer Hachalu Hundessa. The year-old had emerged as a powerful political voice of the Oromo ethnic group, and had made many enemies during his musical career. Two suspects were arrested after he was shot dead while driving in the capital, Addis Ababa on Monday evening. However, police have not yet revealed a motive for the killing and no charges have been brought against the suspects. Hachalu's funeral has taken place in his hometown of Ambo. A former political prisoner who grew up looking after cattle, Hachalu rose to become one of Ethiopia's biggest music stars, mesmerising fans with his songs about romance and political freedom - topics that he easily blended into his lyrics. Hachalu's father, who used to work in the electricity department in the city of Ambo, aspired for his son to become a doctor, but he showed little interest in medicine. However, from an infant, Hachalu showed a passion for music and singing, with the encouragement of his mother, while he looked after cows on the family's farmland on the outskirts of Ambo in the Oromia region, the heartland of Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, the Oromo. Jailed for five years. One of eight children, Hachalu was born in in Ambo - a city about km 60 miles west of the capital, Addis Ababa.