Canada Ethiopia: funeral of the singer killed at the origin of the murderous demonstrations
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A few hundred Ethiopians gathered Thursday in Ambo (center) to celebrate discreetly the funeral of the singer whose death sparked demonstrations that claimed the lives of around 90 people, and highlighted the inter-community tensions which are weakening the country .
Singer Hachalu Hundessa, a member of the Oromo community, the first ethnic group in this country of 110 million inhabitants, was shot dead Monday night in Addis Ababa for an unknown reason.
Although appreciated by Ethiopians of various origins, Hachalu was especially the voice of the Oromo, who had denounced their economic and political marginalization during the anti-government demonstrations between 2015 and 2018 which led to the coming to power of the Prime Minister Minister Abiy Ahmed.
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The funeral, broadcast live on several television channels, took place in Ambo, the birthplace of Hachalu, about 100 km west of the capital.
Barely 500 people were gathered in a country football stadium with tall grass and a single small central platform, for a short and sober funeral service contrasting with the shock wave caused by the death of the artist .
Horsemen in traditional clothes paraded in the stadium, with a fanfare, before the hearse, covered with wreaths of flowers, entered it. The coffin was then carried, in the presence of only a few relatives, to a nearby church, where the ceremony lasted about twenty minutes.
Tearful women threw themselves on the ground at the foot of the coffin before being buried. There, young men wearing black T-shirts with the singer's portrait burst their sadness, crying and wailing at the grave.
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Friday’s demonstration was held in response to the death of 62-year-old Ejaz Ahmed Choudry in Mississauga on June 20. Ontario’s police watchdog has said Choudry was shot and killed by a Peel Region police officer during a wellness check. Read more: Language barriers cited as challenge for police in increasingly diverse Canada Peel Region Police have said Choudry was in a "state of crisis" and believed to have weapons on him in his residence.
"He was a real freedom fighter," said Belay Aqenaw, the funeral organizer, in a speech. "He was a singer who cheered us up."
- Clashes between communities -
At least seven people were killed on Tuesday in Ambo by security forces trying to disperse the demonstrations and more than 30 wounded by gunshots, said Bedessa Bikila, a doctor at the general hospital of Ambo.
Tensions were also strong there Wednesday, Oromo demonstrators claiming that Hachalu be rather buried in Addis Ababa: many Oromo nationalists consider the capital as being part of a territory which would have been stolen during the creation of the Modern Ethiopia.
In total, some 90 people died in the violence following the murder of the singer, in the Oromia region and in Addis Ababa.
Some were killed by the security forces, but others perished in clashes between members of various communities, the authorities acknowledged on Wednesday.
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Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said in a statement Wednesday evening that those behind Hachalu's death were seeking to derail his economic and political reform program, and to "kill Ethiopia".
"We have two choices as a people. Fall into the trap set by these detractors or move away from it and stay on the path of reform," he pleaded.
Even though Mr. Abiy is the first Oromo head of government in modern history, many Oromo nationalists accuse him of not doing enough to defend the interests of his community.
- "We blame it on us" -
Since coming to power, he has endeavored to reform a system hitherto very authoritarian. But in doing so, it opened the door to inter-communal violence which tests the Ethiopian system of ethnic federalism.
The streets of Addis Ababa were rather quiet on Thursday morning, most of the shops remaining closed.
Authorities have not reported on the victims in the capital, but the American embassy announced on Wednesday that eight people had been killed there, including two members of the federal police.
Outside St Paul's hospital, Fikadu Kebebe, a 24-year-old Oromo, was waiting Thursday to recover the body of his young brother Getu, who he said was killed the day before by the security forces.
"He was demonstrating just to express his emotion after the death of Hachalu. When the police started to shoot, he tried to flee, but he was shot twice in the back and died on the spot", he told AFP.
"The government is targeting Oromo people everywhere in town. We are blaming ourselves when it is we who are attacked," he lamented.
Two of the main Oromo opposition leaders, Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, were arrested. They appeared Thursday in Addis Ababa court and are accused of "participation in the death of a person" in an incident following the death of the singer.
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