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Ethiopia: Military deployed after more than 80 killed in protests

The military was deployed in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday as armed gangs roamed neighbourhoods in a second day of unrest that claimed more than 80 lives.

Popular musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was shot dead on Monday in what police said was a targeted killing.

Protests following the killing, and a sense of political marginalisation, broke out the next morning in the capital and other towns and cities in the surrounding Oromia region.

The assassination of Haacaaluu, from the country's largest ethnic group, stoked tensions that threaten to derail the country's democratic transition.

"So far 81 people have been killed, including three Oromia special police force members," said Bedassa Merdasa, the Oromia police chief.

Gunshots echoed through many neighbourhoods and gangs armed with machetes and sticks roamed the streets. Witnesses described a situation pitting youths of Oromo origin against some of the city's other ethnic groups, and where both sides skirmished with police.

Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa shot dead in Addis Ababa

"We had a meeting with the community, and we were told to arm ourselves with anything we have, including machetes and sticks. We no longer trust the police to protect us, so we have to prepare ourselves," said one Addis Ababa resident, who like others interviewed asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

The military had been deployed in some areas, three witnesses said. One described a street littered with rocks that anti-Oromo protesters had thrown at police.

Businesses ablaze

Many residents feared Haacaaluu's funeral - scheduled for Thursday in his home town of Ambo - could ignite more violence.

"Security forces have invaded our town, we can't go out to mourn. No vehicles are moving around except security patrols with machine-guns," Chala Hunde, 27, said from Ambo, 100km (60 miles) west of Addis.

"The security forces are putting a finger in our wound."

A tussle over whether to bury Haacaaluu in Ambo or Addis laid bare the political tensions fanning the protests, said Professor Awol Allo at Britain's Keele University.

"It's very contentious. Oromos claim the city [Addis] to be theirs as it lies fully within the Oromo regional state," he said. But the capital is under federal, not regional control.

The state broadcaster reported the arrest of prominent journalist and activist Eskinder Nega, a former political prisoner who runs a pressure group opposed to what it describes as Oromo attempts to dominate the capital.

A policeman was also killed in Addis Ababa, and three explosions there caused an unspecified number of deaths.

Prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and media mogul Jawar Mohammed, along with 34 other people, were also arrested when Jawar's bodyguards refused to disarm during a standoff with police. 

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Egypt is either involved or enjoying it and will probably do everything they can to worsen the situation.  It's to do with the dam. 

What's with Africa and this ethnically driven politics.  Why is the continent struggling with building federally administered regions and having a decent federal state? Drums of war will bring nothing but woe.  

I think Ethiopia will survive this. 

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Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopia's attorney general said Friday that two men had confessed to killing a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group as part of a plot to topple Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government.

Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.

His shooting death last week sparked days of protests and ethnic violence that killed 239 people, according to police figures.

"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.

Though Abiy is Ethiopia's first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office, a complaint echoed by many protesters last week.

Abebech 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.

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 disavowed any links to armed insurgents.

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 themselves 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."

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Jawar Mohammed investigation allowed 13 more days

A court in Lideta, Addis Ababa, allowed police on Thursday 13 more days to finalize an investigation on Jawar Mohammed, owner of Oromia Media Network and one of the leaders of Merera Gudina led Oromo Federalist Congress, according to a report by Ethiopian News Agency(ENA).

Police told the Court about the role that Jawar had in the ethnic and religious-based “violence” (observers say it was an act of ethnic cleansing, not violence) in the Oromo region of Ethiopia soon after the killing of Ethiopian Singer Hachalu Hundessa in late June 2020.

Oromo Regional State Police reported that 181 people have been killed in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, and firearms seized from a group that Jawar leads are illegal.

Other sources report that the number of people killed in the attack is at least 240. Nearly three hundred are wounded, and hundreds of residential homes and businesses, mostly belonging to followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church were destroyed.

Apart from having a role in what the police called “violence,” Jawar is being investigated in connection to the incident in the capital Addis Ababa in the days following the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa on June 29.

Police told the court that a crowd that Jawar led forcefully tried to enter the Oromia region Prosperity Party office, with the coffin of Hachalu Hundessa, which led to the killing of one police force. A policeman was shot dead and three others wounded in the ensuing scuffle with the security forces.

The court is told that the incident happened because of the order that Jawar Mohammed gave to his followers. The family and parents of Hachalu Hudessa wanted the body to be laid to rest in Ambo town, the birthplace of the singer.

Police also told the court that it had gathered evidence that Jawar made phone calls, apparently to different parts of the Oromo region of Ethiopia where he is believed to have hundreds of thousands of followers, inciting protests.

It is also said that 14 investigative teams are carrying out further investigation and additional evidence is being gathered.

In late October 2019, at least 86 people were killed, and hundreds wounded in the Oromo region of Ethiopia after Jawar Mohammed wrote a facebook update claiming that his life is endangered as the government withdrew security forces.

The government of Abiy Ahmed received widespread criticism for failing to hold him accountable for the loss of lives back then.

Now, many seem to be nodding to Abiy Ahmed’s administration move to enforce the rule of law in Ethiopia although there seems to be skepticism that radical forces within Abiy Ahmed’s government might arrange for the escape of Jawar Mohammed from prison.

Xigasho

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Abiye is not a oromo nationalist as some of the hard core oromos tried to portray him in the past. His days are numbered in Ethiopia. He had a fall out with his own ethnic group. He is not welcome in tigray. The amharas are indifferent. His only  support is the Eritrean dictator. 

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