The death toll from protests and violence outbreak in Ethiopia last week following the assassination of a popular Oromo singer and and activist Hachalu Hundessa has risen to 239, according to announcement of the authorities.
“Due to the unrest that occurred in the region, nine police officers, five militia members and 215 civilians have lost their lives,” acting police commissioner Mustafa Kedir said on state television on July 8.
Hachalu, 34, was killed on June 29, sparking unrest that spread from Oromia community where he was considered as an emblematic figure.
The motive of the assassins remains unclear. Previously Hachalu had received death threats. His songs focused on the rights of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and became anthems in a wave of protests that led to the downfall of the previous prime minister in 2018.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in a televised speech a day after Hachalu assassination, said that “internal and external forces” were responsible. The same forces, he alleged, were trying to prevent the singer from being taken back to his place of birth for burial.
Security forces made a number of arrests after a dispute at Hachalu’s funeral over whether the place of burial should be in the capital Addis Ababa or his birthplace of Ambo, some 100 kilometers to the west of the capital.
The Ethiopian government shut down internet in the entire country on June 30, after protests erupted in capital Addis Ababa and surrounding areas against the assassination of Oromo musician and social activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.