81 killed in Ethiopia protests over singer's death

81 killed in Ethiopia protests over singer's death

81 killed in Ethiopia protests over singer's death

Our reporter says the stadium was not full as many residents in Ambo stayed at home amidst heavy security after days of violence.

"Haacaaluu is not dead".

The slain singer's wife, Santu Demisew Diro, gave a short speech after mourners laid wreaths. "I request a monument erected in his memory in Addis [Ababa] where his blood was spilt".

Thousands of fans had gathered to mourn Hachalu Hundessa, who was shot dead on Monday night while driving.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his condolences, promised an investigation and asked the public to remain calm, in a message posted on Twitter.

Yesterday, images of protesters in the capital and in Oromia region circulated on social media and the US Embassy in Ethiopia released a security alert saying the embassy was "monitoring reports of protests and unrest, including gunfire, throughout Addis Ababa". The military was deployed in Addis Ababa as armed gangs roamed neighbourhoods in a second day of unrest on Wednesday.

Demonstrations erupted in 2016 and pressure built on the government.

Security forces were in evidence again Thursday at the nationally televised ceremony. In recent months, some Oromo activists who initially supported Abiy have become more critical, accusing him of not protecting the interests of the Oromo people.

Prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and media mogul Jawar Mohammed were also arrested when Jawar's bodyguards refused to disarm during a stand-off with police.

Both his death and the protests come as political tensions escalate following the postponement of elections due in August because of the current coronvirus pandemic.

His funeral was broadcast live on regional television with pictures showing the funeral procession at a stadium in the singer's hometown of Ambo.

In addition to deadly force used by police, at least some of the deaths have involved inter-ethnic killings, the officials said Wednesday.

Abiy has indicated that foreign forces may have been involved in assassinating the singer in an attempt to destabilise the country.

The Oromo have long complained of exclusion from political power.

Mr Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 primarily for making peace with long-time foe Eritrea, but his efforts in transforming Ethiopia were also recognised.

"The assassination of an important Oromo musician, subsequent protests which have in places involved property destruction and security forces using lethal force, and the arrest of Oromo leaders, creates a risky situation and is another blow to Ethiopia's troubled transition", explained International Crisis Group analyst William Davison. Abiy's rule has been frequently challenged by local powerbrokers demanding more access to land, power and resources. We will come out of this, the prime minister said, hinting there could be links to the killing of the army chief previous year and the grenade thrown at one of his own rallies in 2018.

"He leaves behind a legacy of a man [who] is the institution of the consciousness of the Oromo people", she told Al Jazeera.

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