The death of Hachalu Hundessa, an Oromo protest singer who was shot in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 29, has sparked unrest around the country. The security forces have cracked down on protestors, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries, and drastically elevating ethnic tensions that have been brewing ever since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed introduced plans to move Ethiopia away from an ethnic power-sharing government and toward a true multiparty democracy.
Hundessa’s music functioned as the soundtrack to the Oromo Revolution, a political movement demanding equal rights and better representation for the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. Abiy himself is an Oromo on his father’s side, but has nonetheless faced criticism from Hundessa and other Oromo activists, notably for ongoing suppression of protests, arbitrary detention of journalists, and deliberate Internet shutdowns.
This latest bout of unrest is seriously straining the prime minister and his ruling Prosperity Party’s ability to manage a slowly unraveling political crisis.
Abiy must also deal with a growing regional struggle over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Legislative elections, originally planned for August 2020, were anticipated to be a major referendum on Ahmed’s reform efforts, but they have been indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some opposition parties accepted the postponement, but the move was heavily criticized by others, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which still intends to hold elections in the Tigray region despite the federal government’s postponement.
On top of these domestic challenges, Abiy must also deal with a growing regional struggle over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Egypt and Sudan fear that a hasty filling of the dam will negatively disrupt the Nile River flow in their territories and jeopardize their water security.