Coronavirus live updates: What you need to know

View More

Two rebels confess killing Ethiopian musician in Addis Ababa

By East Africa Correspondent , Garowe Online

ADDIS ABABA - The mystery surrounding the controversial death of Hachalu Hundesa, a famous Ethiopian songwriter and musician, could be unraveled soon after two rebels admitted shooting him in the streets of Addis Ababa almost a fortnight ago.

Ethiopian Attorney General Abebech Abbebe told reporters on Friday that two men affiliated to Oromo Liberation Front shot and killed the famous musician, who hails from the Oromo region, as part of a plot to "topple" Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed's administration.

The musician was not only popular within the Oromo region but also across Ethiopia. His death sparked protests across the Horn of Africa nation, with police statistics indicating that over 239 people were killed during the spontaneous violence last week.

"The assassination was intended to be a cover to take power from the incumbent by force," attorney general Abebech Abbebe said in a statement Friday aired on state television, without providing details.

The musician played an integral role in pushing for the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn, leading to the ascendancy of Abiy Ahmed into power in 2018. However, despite the fact that Abiy comes from ethnic Oromo, the region has been witnessing chaos for the last couple of months, something attributed to their dissatisfaction with his administration.

For instance, deadly protests engulfed Addis Ababa for the better part of 2019 December, with police shooting dead over 80 demonstrators. The unrest was occasioned by the withdrawal of security officers attached to Jawar Mohammed, another leading activist from the region who had since cut ties with Ahmed.

The Attorney General said that along with the two men who have allegedly confessed to the crime, the government has identified a third suspect who remains on the run. Last week, police had said that "several" were arrested in connection with the assassination.

One of the men in custody identified the masterminds of the alleged plot as members of a rebel group the government believes is affiliated with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front [OLF] political party, Abebech said.

The OLF, a former rebel movement, returned to Ethiopia from exile after Abiy took office and has repeatedly disowned any links to armed insurgents. Several other political prisoners were released after the reformist PM took over.

The internet remained shut off Friday for an 11th consecutive day, though Addis Ababa remains calm and Abiy's office issued a statement saying the surrounding Oromia region had "returned to calm and citizens have resumed normal activities".

In her statement, however, Abebech said unnamed agitators were calling for additional protests and road blockages in the coming days.

"There are those that have hidden in nice places but are calling on Ethiopian youth to fight each other, close roads, and to cease working as part of a rebellion call," Abebech said. "Above all, we call on our people to disobey this rebellion call and to thwart it."

Protestors had linked the government to the assassination of the musician, leading to the chaos across the country. Jawar Mohamed was among those arrested during the crackdown, a move that triggered spontaneous violence even in areas outside the Oromo region.

During his burial at Ambo region in the outskirts of Addis Ababa, only a few mourners were allowed into the musicians' compound. Dr. Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize award in 2019 but the ethnic violence at his backyard has triggered sharp criticism over his leadership qualities.