Murder of Oromo singers takes Ethiopia to the brink of burning

The death of singer Hachalu Hundessa and the arrest of opponent Jawar Mohammed, both belonging to the Oromo clan, rekindle the tensions in an Ethiopia already weakened by its ethnic conflicts.

No one is a prophet in his land; AbiyAhmed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize, experiences it bitterly every day. Crowned with his prestigious award, the Ethiopian head of government fails to end the interethnic conflicts that are undermining his country. , that it has become a real powder compartment. And Hachalu’s death may be the spark that will burn the country, says Gérard Prunier, historian and specialist in Ethiopia in an interview with France 24.

The day after the singer’s death, the Oromo ethnic group actually radiated, at least 59 people were killed and several seriously injured during demonstrations to protest his murder, mostly in the Oromia region. of the death of a simple artist with catchy music. “This singer had become one of the icons of political demand in Oromo, especially youth groups,” abounds ÉloiFicquet, lecturer for EHESS and specialist in the Horn of Africa for France 24.

A “Precious Life”

The 34-year-old idol fell under the fire of one or more attackers on the street in a southern suburb of Addis Ababa, according to the first parts of the investigation. The motive for his murder is still unknown, but “suspects” have already been arrested, police say.

Prime Minister AbiAhmed, himself Oromo, but questioned within his own ethnic group, immediately expressed his “grief” at the loss of “this precious life”. At the same time, the government cut off the Internet in the capital, Addis Ababa, to avoid the risk of flooding.

Facts don’t stay there. While the artist’s remains would be relocated to the native Savo d’Ambo, located in the Oromia region, west of Addis Ababa, to be buried there, a group of Oromosteenté to grab the body to bring it back to Addis Ababa to offer national burials to the one they consider to be a martyr.

>> Read: Jawar Mohammed, the opponent who challenges the power of Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia

Media opponent Jawad Mohammed was arrested

After conflicts with the police, 35 protesters were arrested, including opponent Jawar Mohammed. Yet “this event is a good opportunity for the power to get rid of this annoying opponent,” emphasizes Gérard Prunier.

JawarMohammed, 34, was still considered the architect of the current Prime Minister’s victory a few months ago. Both men really belong to the Oromo community, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. But a few months after he came to power – the most formidable enemies often born in his own camp – JawarMohammed became the prime minister’s main opponent. Although AhmedAbiy is the first Oromo head of modern history, many nationalists, including Jawar Mohammed and singer HachaluHundessafontparti, accuse him of not doing enough to defend the interests of his society.


The rivalries between Abiy Ahmed and his opponents “illustrate the divisions that rule within the 38 million Oromo people living in Ethiopia,” explains Gérard Prunier. On the ground, “tensions have not ceased in the country, especially in western Ethiopia, the region of Vollega where supporters of the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) confront supporters of Abiy Ahmad”, continues ÉloiFicquet.

In addition to the ethnic conflicts, financial difficulties are added. “Prices are constantly rising. This is particularly affecting the urban population and the tertiary economy. Can rural people cope with the crisis? The safety net of the state is enough to make submission preferable to recall? More questions than answers …”, laments ÉloiFicquet.

Uncertainty spreads across all areas. General elections were postponed for one year, first because of ethnic tensions, then because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which extended by one year the maintenance of Abiy Ahmed in the government. “Invested in power, without choice, by a party he dismantled, the researcher concludes, AbiyAhmed still relies on his personal aura, his mastery of intelligence systems (…) and on the support of the international community” to keep himself in power.