Hashalu Hundisa: “My hero friend who was shot.”


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The friendship between Hundisa (left) and Amansisa has gathered since 2009

The killing of the famous Ethiopian singer and musician Hashalu Hundisa led to days of turmoil in his country, and the deaths of at least 80 people during protests.

Hashalu mostly sang about love and loneliness, but his songs also addressed the issues of marginalization felt by his Oromo ethnic group.

In the following lines, Amnesisa Eva, who works as a BBC camera and has been a friend of the musician and filmed with him an award-winning video, talks about the death and subsequent events.

Sometimes when I think about Hashalu’s death, I think I would prefer it if I had died if that meant he could have lived.

He was a hero to many, and he had a lot to offer his people.

He has always fought for them – and during the times when many artists, activists, and politicians fled the country, Hashalu continued to raise issues that many would not dare raise.

Hashalu in the hospital.

I started receiving calls and text messages after ten oclock (19:00 GMT) on Monday from friends who were asking me what happened to HaShalu.

Nobody at the moment was saying that he was dead, but it was clear that something had happened.

I tried to call our other friends, but nobody answered. Then I received a text message saying that Hashalu is in the hospital.

I decided to drive to the hospital, and on my way, I was able to phone one of our friends, who told me sobbing that he was standing next to Hashalu’s body.

Hashalu was shot.

When I got to the hospital, there was a lot of noise inside the room where the body was located.

Someone revealed the body, and I saw what looked like a gunshot wound to his chest.

The police were there, as were many friends.

I was calling his name and crying. Everyone was screaming and crying.

We kept shouting, “Don’t tell me this is real.”

Hashalu’s body was then transferred to another hospital so that the doctors could carry out further investigations. We followed the ambulance that took him.

We were in the hospital all night. At about four oclock in the morning we went out. The area opposite the hospital was full of the most recent of the people who came after the news of Hashalu’s death became public.

Everyone was crying, chanting his name.

After sunrise, we tried to get the body out from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the town of Umbu, Hashalu’s birthplace – about a hundred kilometers to the west.

“Hashalu our hero”

When we got out of the city in a motorcade, I realized there were a lot of problems. I heard gunshots and tear gas canisters fired by the police.

We arrived in Burao, about 15 kilometers away, where we met thousands of people who were going to Addis Ababa on foot and in trucks and buses, many of them in shock and sadness. They wanted to see him off.

These were people from various parts of the Oromia region, who had traveled at night after hearing the news of Hashalu’s death. Many were calling for the funeral to take place in the capital.

While sitting in my car, I heard people say, “Hashalu is the hero of our nation. He deserves the funeral of heroes in Addis Ababa.”

Our motorcade stopped there for a while, then we started our return trip to Addis Ababa.

We later discovered that the government insisted that Hashalu be buried in the town of Umbu, as that was what the family wanted. As a result, his body was taken by helicopter to the town.

But I couldn’t go to Umbu to attend the funeral on Thursday, as the roads were closed.

Instead, I had to follow the ceremony on TV, and that was the hardest moment for me.

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I wanted to be with him to see him off properly. I noticed that not many people were allowed to attend, and in our culture you cannot bury even an ordinary person with a few people around him, let alone a big hero like Hashalu.

I was crying while watching the funeral.

She called my mom crying and said, “I want to die today.” She was crying too. And I have been crying since then every time someone asks me how I feel.

I’m still confused about Hashalu’s death.

Until Thursday, when I heard something happened to a friend of his, she instinctively proceeded to call the Hashalu number to talk to him about it.

I talked to him a week before he was shot and he told me that he had a new song he wanted to hear for me, called “Where are you?”

Hashalu’s art was not just about politics. He sang about culture, identity, unity, human rights and love, among other things.

I also wanted to talk to him about a television interview he had just conducted, in which he told people he would not turn his back on his political views.

Image source
Dagi Pictures

He was talking about the rights of the Oromo people, Ethiopias largest ethnic nationality, which has long complained of political and economic marginalization.

People were accusing him of accepting money from the country’s new ruling party – the Prosperity Party – but he said: “No one can buy me.”

He has always been aware of how people differed with him, and there have been incidents where he has argued with some in Addis Ababa.

But he never worried about his life. He often said that the person who dies for the sake of his people is a hero.

He once told me: “I am not different from anyone else, I may die one day, but I am not afraid of death.”

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