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African Union calls for Calm in Ethiopia

Africa

ADDIS ABABA - The chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, appealed for calm in Ethiopia, and “restraint by all sides.” In a statement, issued on Thursday, Faki called “on all Ethiopians to refrain from acts that could further escalate the current situation.”

In the message, Faki mourned the death of singer Hachalu Hundessa, whose murder on Monday sparked protests across Ethiopia, and which led to the death of more than 80 people.

Faki said he “is monitoring the recent developments in Ethiopia closely,” adding that he “reaffirms its support to the government and people of Ethiopia in their efforts to promote a stable, peaceful and prosperous country.”

The President of the AU Commission added:

“The Chairperson calls on the Government of Ethiopia to bring the perpetrators of such heinous act to face justice and encourages all sides to resolve differences through dialogue and peaceful means in order to allow adequate efforts towards preventing and controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Hachalu Hundessa was shot and killed on Monday night in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. He was considered the voice of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. He also played an important role in the wave of protests that propelled the current prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, also of ethnic Oromo, to power in April 2018.

The statements by the chairman of the AU Commission come on the day that the funeral of Hachalu Hundessa was conducted, during which clashes between the army and the population trying to attend the burial ceremony caused at least two deaths. In total, about 90 people died in the violence that ensued following the singer’s murder.

The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned today that the Ethiopian government’s response to protests over the death of Hachalu Hundessa risks dragging the country into a “deep crisis.”

In response to the protests, the government cut Internet services across the country, which, according to HRW, amplified “concerns that people are being silenced.” The Internet lockdown is also making it impossible to access information, hence creating suspicion between the security and citizens, thus fueling further chaos.

Abiyi’s rise to the head of the Ethiopian government ended decades when the multi-ethnic government coalition was dominated by leaders of the Tigray minority. Until then, the Oromo had traditionally complained of political and economic marginalization.

Abiy Ahmed, 43, spurred major reforms in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country. These reforms included the end of the state of emergency enacted by his predecessor. He also amnestied thousands of political prisoners, legalized opposition parties, and pledged to hold elections.

In 2019, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to ending the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, the prime minister has been criticized for failing to resolve some of the root problems of the Ethiopian state, namely the ethnic tensions that have caused waves of violence and displacements.

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