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Ethiopia announces arrests in singer’s killing that prompted Twin Cities protests

By ABDI LATIF DAHIR | New York Times

NAIROBI, Kenya — Ethiopia said that two men have been arrested in connection with the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a well-known musician and activist whose death last month was followed by unrest in which hundreds were killed.

Attorney General Adanech Abebe announced the arrests in a televised statement Friday night, saying that a third suspect in Hundessa’s shooting was still on the run.

“We will continue to uphold the rule of law,” Abebe said.

She said the two men arrested had confessed to killing Hundessa, acting on the orders of an armed splinter wing of the Oromo Liberation Front, an opposition group, with the goal of inciting ethnic tension and overthrowing the government. She provided no evidence for the claim, and the Oromo Liberation Front had yet to respond to the accusation as of Saturday morning.

Hundessa, 34, was shot June 29 in a suburb of the capital, Addis Ababa. He was taken to a hospital but died of his wounds.

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The singer and activist was a member of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, who have long been marginalized despite their numbers. His songs of resistance made him a hero to a generation of young people struggling for political and economic change.

After his death, violent protests broke out in Addis Ababa and the neighboring Oromia region. Officials said that at least 239 people had been killed in the unrest, during which buildings were burned and groups of young men carried out ethnically motivated attacks.

The government blocked the internet and arrested nearly 5,000 people, including activists, journalists and a prominent critic of the government, Jawar Mohammed.

The violence has posed a challenge to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is overseeing Ethiopia’s delicate transition from authoritarian rule to multiparty democracy.

Since taking office in 2018, Abiy has introduced widespread political, economic and social overhauls, including amnesty for political prisoners and the legalization of banned opposition groups. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for such measures, and for restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea.

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But the changes brought about by Abiy have also lifted the lid on serious challenges to his government. He has faced criticism from members of the Oromo community who say he has not done enough to alleviate their problems.

In Minnesota, Oromo immigrants joined this month in expressing their anger over Hundessa’s killing. Protests in St. Paul included a demonstration outside the state Capitol, a rally at the Oromo Community of Minnesota center and a march onto Interstate 94 near Victoria Street that closed westbound lanes for about two hours.

About Whispers from the North

Whispers from the North is an online platform that appreciates the ecological, cultural and socio-economic diversities of Northern Kenya. We also acknowledge that the lives of the communities of northern Kenya has been shaped by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors which have led to complex challenge that calls for a multifaceted approach.

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