Ethnic unrest following the murder of Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa has left at least 166 people dead, officials said.
A senior police official said that 145 civilians and 11 members of the security forces died in the Oromia region alone. Ten people were killed in the capital Addis Ababa.
Hachalu, 34, was killed on Monday, causing unrest that has spread from Oromia where he was considered a hero.
The reason is not clear. Hachalu said he had received death threats.
His songs focused on the rights of the country’s Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and became hymns in a wave of protests that led to the fall of the previous Prime Minister in 2018.
BBC Ethiopia reporter Kalkidan Yibeltal said ethnic and religious tensions intensified following the massacre.
Announcing the latest figures, Oromia’s assistant police commissioner Girma Gelam said 167 people had “suffered serious injuries” during the unrest.
Gelam said 1,084 people had been arrested, without providing further details.
In his statement, the police official said that the violent unrest has now “completely stopped”.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, himself an Oromo, who came to power in April 2018, warned that those responsible for the death of Hachalu wanted to derail his reform program.
“We have two choices as a people. To fall into the trap set up by detractors or to deviate from their trap and stay on the path of reform. Choosing the first means helping them voluntarily in our disappearance, ”declared the Prime Minister. .
“A thorn in the flesh”
Par Bekele Atoma, BBC Afaan Oromoo
I didn’t know how to write lyrics and melodies before I was put behind bars ”
From his youth, Hachalu Hundessa was a thorn in the flesh of successive governments.
As a student in Ambo, a city at the forefront of Oromo’s campaign for independence, Hachalu joined groups of students calling for freedom. At 17, he was imprisoned for five years for his political activities.
He became increasingly politicized in prison, as he deepened his knowledge of the history of Ethiopia, including its reign by emperors and autocrats – and also developed his musical skills.
“I didn’t know how to write lyrics and melodies before I was put behind bars. This is where I learned, “he said in 2017.
He released his first album Sanyii Mootii (Race of the King) in 2009, a year after walking freely, and that turned him into a music star and a political symbol of the Oromo aspirations.
However, he downplayed his political role by saying, “I am not a politician, I am an artist. Singing about what my people are going through doesn’t make me a politician. “
- Read more: The singer whose murder sparked protests in Ethiopia
Why was Oromos protesting?
The Oromo have long complained of being sidelined. Protests broke out in 2016 and pressure was put on the government.
The ruling coalition finally replaced the then Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, with Mr. Abiy.
He introduced a series of reforms, which transformed what was considered a very oppressive state.
However, long-standing ethnic tensions have turned into violence.
Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 primarily for making peace with longtime enemy Eritrea, but his efforts to transform Ethiopia have also been recognized.