The Political Assassination of Mr. Haacaaluu Hundeessaa

July 23, 2020

Re: The Political Assassination of Mr. Haacaaluu Hundeessaa

We at the International Oromo Lawyers’ Association (IOLA) were shocked to hear of the assassination of our brother Haacaaluu Hundeessaa and would like to extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and admirers, as well as to the Oromo nation at large.  

Haacaaluu Hundeessaa was an iconic Oromo artist and activist. He was an advocate for the Oromo people’s political, civil, and human rights. His entire life, he openly spoke truth to power about the centuries-old political and economic marginalization of the Oromo people by successive Ethiopian regimes. Over the years, the 34-year-old artist had emerged as a powerful political voice for the Oromo. His music has been a soundtrack to the Oromo movement for freedom and equality.

Hundeessaa was shot dead on the evening of June 29, 2020, one week after he appeared in an interview on the Oromia Media Network (OMN). In this interview, he criticized PM Abiy Ahmed for his failure to bring sustainable and genuine peace to the country, and for his recently revealed political vision of restoring the repressive Imperial Ethiopia. He criticized PM Abiy Ahmed for mismanaging the expected democratic transition and disregarding the struggle of the qeerroo (Oromo youth). In the interview, he also commented on the historical injustice perpetrated by Emperor Menelik II against the Oromo people.

After the attack, Hundeessaa was taken to Tirunesh Beijing General Hospital, where he died; his body was later transported to St. Paul’s Hospital. Soon after, thousands of mourners converged at the hospital to express their grief. Hundeessaa’s fans wanted him to be laid to rest in the capital city, Addis Ababa, with a national send-off from the government, owing to his immense stature within the Oromo nation. However, government leaders mismanaged the situation, unnecessarily confronting with Hundeessaa’s fans who had merely been expressing their grief.   

Subsequently, government military forces launched a widespread crackdown against non-government media, opposition political leaders, and qeerroo (youth) activists. Political figures including Bekele Gerba, Jawar Mohammed, Dr. Shigut Galata, Lammii Beenyaa, Dawit Abata, and 35 others were arrested without probable cause. Concurrently, government security forces raided OMN, arresting many of its journalists, including Melese Diribisa, Guyo Wario, Mohammed Siraj, and others. We believe the crackdown is politically motivated.

Law enforcement, including the attorney general, never provided any substantive information pertaining to the investigation. Authorities have not disclosed to the expectant public anything credible about the crime scene, investigation of the crime, or autopsy report. We have witnessed inconsistencies between government authorities’ reports, particularly regarding the identity of the apprehended suspects. This raises continued questions as to the trustworthiness of the government with regard to Hundeessaa’s assassination and the surrounding circumstances.

We know that the current political environment in the country is complex, polarized, and increasingly volatile. From the actions taken thus far, we understand that the government is focusing on exculpating the real suspects while putting the blame on opposition political parties. This is indicative of the country’s disconcerting path away from justice and peace. In order to achieve justice for the Hundeessaa’s family and for society, these must be an independent, credible, and objective investigation into this matter of national implication.

The circumstances around the assassination of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa reveal serious dysfunction in Ethiopia’s political system, which has a history of hostility and violence towards the Oromo people. IOLA calls on the international community—including those with diplomatic and financial ties to Ethiopia—to take this matter seriously in their engagement with the Ethiopian government.

Sincerely,

IOLA Executive Board