Firaol Ajema and his friends, dressed in black T-shirts, have been meeting each afternoon in recent days to listen to the music of Ethiopian pop star Hachalu Hundessa, also known as Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
The homemade shirts bearing the dead singer’s portrait and the slogan “I am also Hachalu” are their way of honouring the man whose murder on Monday sparked violence that killed at least 166 people and highlighted Ethiopia’s simmering ethnic tensions.
“We haven’t been able to properly mourn,” said Firaol, a university student in the town of Legetafo outside Addis Ababa, where security has been tight since the killing. “We are suffocating inside our own houses.”
Hachalu’s death, which remains unsolved, was destined to become a political flashpoint.
In uptempo pop songs riddled with political references, Hachalu gave voice to feelings of marginalisation among fellow members of his Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest.
His music was the soundtrack to anti-government protests that swept Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the country’s first Oromo leader, to office in 2018.
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