London Protesters have felled a statue of former Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie in a Wimbledon Park following the death of singer Hachalu Hundessa.
34-year-old Hundessa died after being shot in the head on June 29 in Oromia while driving in the capital, Addis Ababa, according to the BBC.
The motive for the killing remains unclear, but Hundessa’s death sparked riots which have seen more than 80 people killed in two days.
CNN reported “three police officers and 78 civilians, including an unnamed uncle of the musician, were among those killed.”
The BBC said Hundessa was a “powerful political voice of the Oromo ethnic group, and had made many enemies during his musical career.”
Here’s what you need to know.
Hundessa’s Funeral was Held on July 2; Two People Were Reportedly Killed at the Ceremony
Hundessa’s songs “had provided a soundtrack to a generation of Oromo protesters whose three years of anti-government demonstrations finally forced the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in 2018. Hailemariam was replaced by Abiy Ahmed, the first Oromo to become Ethiopia’s prime minister,” according to Al Jazeera.
Ahmed was “awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his reforms and his work to end the conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.”
Hundessa’s funeral was a brief, private occasion held in his hometown of Ambo in Oromia.
Al Jazeera reported that two were killed as soldiers “blocked mourners” at the event and opened fire.
The outlet said “only a few hundred people attended” the funeral, which was held at a football stadium.
A medical official in the town and an opposition member said that security forces had blocked roads leading to the funeral, and fired at crowds trying to make their way there.
“There has been an operation today related to the funeral. Nine people have been shot and two of them have died in our hospital,” said the official at the Ambo referral hospital.
Filenbar Uma, a member of the opposition Oromo Liberation Front in Ambo, said he feared the death toll could be higher, describing security forces shooting as “people were kept from going” to the funeral.
Internet was also blocked across Ethiopia on the third day of protests, according to CNN.
Human Rights Watch released a statement in response to Hundessa’s death discussing the information blackout.
On Tuesday morning the government cut internet services across the country, which only amplified concerns that people are being silenced and that human rights abuses and communal violence, having rocked the country last year, are not being addressed.
The internet shutdown has also made it impossible to access information on those killed and injured in the protests. One witness told us: “There is no network. We don’t have any information flow … the government only tells people [they] are investigating, and so everyone is hypothesizing based on current affairs.”
A Statue of Former Ethiopian Leader Haile Selassie was Smashed in Cannizaro Park South-West London
A statue of former Ethiopian Leader Haile Selassie was destroyed by a gang of about 100 people on June 30.
The Daily Mail reported that as Ethiopia’s last emperor, Selassie “led the country into the League of Nations – the precursor to the United Nations – in 1923. Though human rights groups slammed his regime as authoritarian, Selassie is revered by Rastafarians today as ‘God incarnate’.”
“Selassie lived in Wimbledon in 1936 during his exile following the Italian invasion of his country. The statue was sculpted by Hilda Seligman, while he stayed with her family, and later erected in Cannizaro Park,” according to the Daily Mail.
The Mail said the incident was “unrelated to the phenomenon of statue-toppling … by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other anti-racism demonstrators.”
Wimbledon Resident Andrew Morris was in the vicinity walking his dog when the incident occurred. He spoke about the events with ITV:
As soon as I got out of the car I heard all this noise and thought there must be some festival going on or an unauthorised rave or something.
I heard the statue being smashed up, but didn’t actually see it happen.
They weren’t some rabid mob, they looked pretty calm… I didn’t think they were in danger of attacking anyone.
He described the group as “carrying fliers that had Oromo slogans on.”
Demonstrators Protested the Death in Minnesota
“A large group of demonstrators took to Interstate 94 in St. Paul” to protest the killing of the singer, according to CBS Minnesota.
CBS said the demonstration “shut down parts of I-94 on the westbound lanes for more than an hour.”