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Funeral for assassinated Ethiopia’s Oromo singer begins, thousands kept out

Security was high in Ethiopia’s Ambo town on Thursday for the funeral of singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, whose killing earlier this week sparked two days of protests that killed more than 80 people.

A farewell ceremony began with well-wishers laying wreaths in Ambo stadium.

“Haacaaluu is not dead. He will remain in my heart and the hears of millions of Oromo people forever,” said Santu Demisew Diro, his wife. “I request a monument erected in his memory in Addis where his blood was spilt.”

A live broadcast showed that the numbers of people in the stadium were sparse. Police were turning people away from the stadium, said one Ambo resident who tried to attend but met crowds of people who had been told to return home. Members of the military, federal police and regional police were out in force, he said.

“It is very sad that his body is accompanied by only a few people and security forces are keeping many others away,” one of Haacaaluu’s relatives, who had been allowed to attend the funeral, told Reuters.

The Ethiopian singer, who was shot dead in the capital Addis Ababa on Monday by unknown gunmen, will later be laid to rest at a church in his home town of Ambo, about 100 km (60 miles) west of Addis.

The killing of the popular singer sparked protests in the capital and surrounding Oromiya region that have killed more than 80 people so far.

Haacaaluu’s songs provided a soundtrack to a generation of Oromo protesters whose three years of anti-government demonstrations finally forced the unprecedented resignation of the prime minister in 2018 and the appointment of the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, have long complained of exclusion from political power. In recent months, some Oromo activists who initially supported Abiy have become more critical, accusing him of not protecting the interests of the Oromo people.

The service was being broadcast by Oromo Broadcasting Network, which is owned by the Oromiya regional state.

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