Ethiopia police confirm arrest of leading opposition politician and 50 killed in Ethiopia protests over singer’s death

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A high-profile Ethiopian activist, Jawar Mohammed
A high-profile Ethiopian activist, Jawar Mohammed is photographed during an interview
in Addis Ababa.AFP

Singer’s murder sparks Ethiopian unrest

Thousands took to the streets of Addis Ababa on Tuesday to escort the body a popular protest singer to his home town.

  • Ethiopian politician Jawar Mohammed has been arrested.

  • There are widespread protests after the singer Hachalu Hundessa was shot dead.

  • The arrest could spark tension with the Oromo ethnic group.

Ethiopia has confirmed the arrest of leading opposition politician Jawar Mohammed, a move that risks inflaming ethnic tensions that have led to multiple deaths in the Oromia region this week.

Jawar, a former media mogul who recently joined the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, was arrested on Monday in Addis Ababa along with 34 other people, federal police commissioner Endeshaw Tassew said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The arrest came during an altercation with the security forces over the body of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer who was gunned down on Monday night, kicking off widespread protests.

Endeshaw said that as Hachalu’s body was being transported to his native town of Ambo for burial, Jawar and his supporters intercepted it and tried to return it to Addis Ababa, where a clash ensued.

“There was a disturbance between federal security forces and others, and in the process one member of the Oromia special police force was killed,” Endeshaw said.

“Thirty five people including Jawar Mohammed have been put under arrest. The security forces have taken eight Kalashnikovs, five pistols and nine radio transmitters from Jawar Mohammed’s car.”

Jawar’s arrest could exacerbate violence in Oromia, which surrounds Addis Ababa and is the heartland of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

50 killed in Ethiopia protests over singer’s death

At least 50 people were killed in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region in protests following the fatal shooting of a popular singer, a regional spokesman said on Wednesday.

Musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was shot dead on Monday night in what police said was a targeted killing. Protests broke out the next morning in the capital and other cities in the Oromiya region.

The dead included protesters and members of the security forces, spokesman Getachew Balcha said. Some businesses had also been set on fire.

 “We were not prepared for this,” he said.

Police said late on Tuesday that a policeman was also killed in Addis Ababa, and three blasts had killed and injured an unspecified number of people.

Haacaaluu’s songs provided a soundtrack to a generation of young protesters whose three years of street demonstrations culminated in the resignation of the previous prime minister and the beginning of an era with greater political freedoms.

His funeral is due to take place on Thursday.