Ethiopian authorities said on Friday they had arrested two suspects over the killing of a popular political singer, whose death last week sparked protests in which 166 people were killed.
The shooting of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, a musician widely revered among his Oromo ethnic group, ignited protests in Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromiya region. Prime Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described his killing as “an evil act”.
In a televised statement, Attorney General Adanech Abebe said that the shooter was acting on the orders of an anti-government group, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shene).
The two men who were arrested included the suspected shooter and an accomplice. A third suspect was still at large, Adenech said.
“We have arrested those who killed him, and those who collaborated in the killing,” Adanech said in the statement. “We will continue to ensure the rule of law.”
The suspects have not yet been charged.
Haacaaluu sang in Oromo, the language of Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group. His killing tapped into grievances fuelled by decades of government repression and what the Oromo describe as their long exclusion from political power.
Abiy, himself an Oromo, came to power in 2018 as the first modern Ethiopian leader from that ethnic group, after months of violent demonstrations led to his predecessor’s resignation.
The unrest last week was the deadliest since Abiy took office. The Prime Minister has initiated a broad package of political and economic reforms in what has long been one of the most tightly controlled countries in Africa, and won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize for making peace with neighbouring Eritrea.
But the increased freedoms under his leadership have also been accompanied by a rise in ethnic violence, and some Oromo figures say he has not done enough to address their longstanding grievances.
More than 166 people killed during anti-government protests in Ethiopia
More than 166 people were killed during anti-government protests in Ethiopia, the government said, as the capital and other hotspots remained closely guarded by security forces and a blanket Internet shutdown entered its sixth day.
Large protests broke out in Addis Ababa and spread to the surrounding Oromia region on Monday night after Hundeessaa was shot dead.
The government initially said 80 people had been killed during the protests, which lasted for two days. The unrest is the deadliest since Abiy, who is Oromo, took power in 2018 with the promise of wide-ranging reforms.
But a senior regional security official told Reuters on Sunday that the death toll was at least double that, with 145 civilians and 11 security personnel killed.
Jibril Mohammed, head of the Oromia Security and Peace Bureau, said more deaths might be reported due to the number of injuries being treated in hospitals.
Another 10 people were killed in Addis Ababa, a source in the national police service said.
The military, called in to quell the protests Wednesday, were out in the streets of Oromia towns, two residents from the town of Adama and another from the town of Shashemene told Reuters. Authorities shut down the Internet after the protests began, and they are yet to switch it on again, residents said.
“The (Oromia) region is now relatively calm and there is no violence or protests at the moment. Businesses have also re-opened,” Jibril told Reuters by phone.
International human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the government to bring Haacaaluu’s killers to justice.