Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Hachalu Hundessa

Hachalu Hundessa (OromoHaacaaluu Hundeessaa BoonsaaAmharic: ሃጫሉ ሁንዴሳ; 1986[1] – 29 June 2020) was an Ethiopian singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist. Hundessa played a significant role in the 2016 Oromo protests that led to Abiy Ahmed taking charge of the Oromo Democratic Party and Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, and subsequently becoming prime minister of Ethiopia in 2018.[2]

Hachalu Hundessa was born in Ambo in Oromia Region, Ethiopia, to Gudatu Hora and Hundessa Bonsa in 1986.[1] the son of Oromo parents[3] Hundessa grew up singing in school clubs and tending cattle.[4] In 2003, at the age of 17, he was arrested for taking part in protests.[5] He was imprisoned at Karchale Ambo for five years and later released in 2008.[4] He was married to Fantu Demisse, with whom he has two daughters.[6]

Hundessa composed and wrote most of the lyrics of his first album while he was in prison. The album, Sanyii Mootii, was released in 2009. In 2013, he toured the United States and released his second album, Waa’ee Keenyaa, which was the #1 best-selling African music album on Amazon Music.[4]

Hundessa’s protest songs unified the Oromo people, encouraging them to resist oppression. His songs have been closely linked with the anti-government resistance that started in 2015 and the 2016 Oromo protests. His ballad “Maalan Jira” (What existence is mine) concerned the displacement of Oromo people from Addis Ababa. Months after the single was released in June 2015, protests opposing the Addis Ababa Master Plan occurred throughout the Oromia Region. The song became an anthem for protesters as well as one of the most viewed Oromo music videos.[7]

In December 2017, Hundessa sang at a concert in Addis Ababa that raised funds for 700,000 Oromo who were displaced by ethnic violence in Somali region. The concert was broadcast live by Oromia Broadcasting Network.[8]

Hundessa’s songs captured Oromo hopes and frustrations. According to lecturer Awol Allo, “Hachalu was the soundtrack of the Oromo revolution, a lyrical genius and an activist who embodied the hopes and aspirations of the Oromo public.”[9]

Hundessa was shot on the evening of 29 June 2020 at the Gelan Condominiums area in Addis Ababa.[5] He was taken to Tirunesh Beijing General Hospital, where he died.[4] Thousands of mourners gathered at the hospital, as police used tear gas to disperse crowds. Two people were shot dead and seven others injured during the singer’s funeral. Filenbar Uma, a member of the opposition Oromo Liberation Front in Ambo, described security forces shooting as “people were kept from going” to the funeral.[10] Hundessa’s casket was driven into the stadium in Ambo in a black car, accompanied by a brass band and men on horseback. He was later buried at an Orthodox church in the town, in accordance with his family’s wishes. The police arrested several suspects in connection with the murder.[5] Hundessa had reported receiving death threats, including in the week prior to his death, when he gave an interview to the Oromia Media Network.[5]

Hundessa’s death sparked protests throughout the Oromia Region, leading to the deaths of approximately 160[11] people. At demonstrations in Adama, nine protesters were killed and another 75 were injured.[9] Two people were shot to death in Chiro, while protesters in Harar toppled a statue of prince Makonnen Wolde Mikael. On 30 June 2020, a statue of Emperor Haile Selassie in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon, south-west London, was destroyed by Oromo protestors. Many people from Ethiopia’s ethnic Oromo group say they were oppressed under Haile Selassie’s reign.[12] Hundessa’s uncle was killed in the clashes. Rights groups have said three protesters were killed by security forces, while a doctor in Dire Dawa town said he treated eight people with gunshots fired by security forces to disperse protests.[13]

At 9am, 30 June 2020, the internet in Ethiopia was largely taken down, a measure previously taken by the government during unrest.[14][15][16] Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his condolences to Hundessa’s family, urging calm amid growing unrest.[5] Media magnate and activist Jawar Mohammed responded to Hundessa’s death on Facebook, saying “They did not just kill Hachalu. They shot at the heart of the Oromo Nation, once again!!…You can kill us, all of us, you can never ever stop us!! NEVER!!”[17] The government accused Jawar Mohammed and his supporters of intercepting the body of Hundessa as it was being transported to his home town of Ambo, which lies 100 km west of Addis Ababa, against the wishes of Hundessa’s family. Tiruneh Gemta, an official from Jawar’s Oromo Federalist Congress party, told the BBC Afaan Oromoo service they were concerned about his arrest and that they hadn’t visited “those who’ve been arrested due to the security situation”. Jawar has led calls for more rights for the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, who have been politically marginalised by previous governments. He previously supported reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, himself an Oromo, but has since become an ardent critic.[18] 35 people, including Jawar, were apprehended, along with eight Kalashnikovs, five pistols, and nine radio transmitters, from his bodyguard.[18]

After the murder of Hundessa ignited violence across Addis Ababa and other Ethiopian cities, Abiy hinted, without obvious suspects or clear motives for the killing, that Hundessa may have been murdered by outside forces set out to stir up trouble.[19] An Egyptian diplomat responded by saying that Egypt “has nothing to do with current tensions in Ethiopia”.[20] Ian Bremmer wrote in a Time magazine article that Prime Minister Abiy “may just be looking for a scapegoat that can unite Ethiopians against a perceived common enemy”.[19]


  • Sanyii Mootii (2009)
  • Waa’ee Keenya (2013)


  1. Jump up to:a b c “The singer whose murder sparked Ethiopia protests”BBC News. 2 July 2020. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  2. ^ Ethiopian unrest fans destruction of Hailie Selassie statue in London, retrieved 3 July2020
  3. ^ “Ethiopian singer buried amid ethnic unrest”BBC News. 2 July 2020. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
  4. Jump up to:a b c d Lethabo (30 June 2020). “Hachalu Hundessa Death, Dead – Hachalu Hundessa Died, Killed, Wife, Wiki, Bio”Latest News South AfricaArchived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  5. Jump up to:a b c d e “Deadly protests erupt after Ethiopian singer killed”BBC News. 30 June 2020. Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  6. ^ Hachalu Hundessa – Ethiopia’s murdered musician who sang for freedom, retrieved 2 July 2020
  7. ^ Ademo, Mohammed (31 December 2017). “Oromo Person of The Year 2017: Haacaaluu Hundeessaa”OPrideArchived from the original on 19 July 2019. Retrieved 30 June2020.
  8. ^ Allo, Awol (30 March 2018). “”We are here”: The soundtrack to the Oromo revolution gripping Ethiopia”African ArgumentsArchived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  9. Jump up to:a b Dahir, Abdi Latif (30 June 2020). “Hachalu Hundessa, Ethiopian Singer and Activist, Is Shot Dead”The New York TimesArchived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  10. ^ “Police block mourners from Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa’s funeral”Police block mourners from Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa’s funeral (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 21 July 2020. Retrieved 21 July 2020.
  11. ^ Allo, Awol K. “Haacaaluu Hundeessaa: A towering musician and an Oromo icon”
  12. ^ “Haile Selassie statue destroyed in London park”BBC News. BBC News. 2 July 2020. Archived from the original on 7 July 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  13. ^ Ghedamu, Feleke, Adebayo, Tefera, Bethlehem, Bukola. “Slain Ethiopian activist and singer buried as 81 killed in protests”. CNN. Archived from the original on 2 July 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  14. ^ “Internet cut in Ethiopia amid unrest following killing of singer”NetBlocks. 30 June 2020. Archived from the original on 6 July 2020.
  15. ^ “Internet shutdown in Ethiopia amid unrest at singer’s death”Euronews. 1 July 2020. Archived from the original on 3 July 2020.
  16. ^ Feleke, Bethlehem. “Internet cut off in Ethiopia after death of singer-activist”CNNArchived from the original on 7 July 2020.
  17. ^ “Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa shot dead in Addis Ababa”Al Jazeera. 30 June 2020. Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 30 June 2020.
  18. Jump up to:a b “Protests over Ethiopian singer’s death ‘kill 81′”BBC News. 1 July 2020. Archivedfrom the original on 3 July 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  19. Jump up to:a b “As Ethiopians Take to the Streets to Protest a Musician’s Murder, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Is Stuck in a Precarious Position”TimeArchived from the original on 14 July 2020. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  20. ^ “Cairo has ‘nothing to do’ with current tensions in Ethiopia: Egyptian diplomat – Politics – Egypt”Ahram OnlineArchived from the original on 11 July 2020. Retrieved 11 July2020.

Credit: Wikipedia


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