Abiy Ahmed’s deteriorating status with Ethiopian performing artists

Singer Tariku Ganiski calls for youth not to go to war but for elders to make peace at Addis Ababa rally. See the Amharic speech he made here.

Popular Ethiopian singer, Tariku Gankisi, who is known for promoting Ethiopian unity in his works was invited to perform at a Addis Ababa rally to support the Federal governments fight against the Tigray and their allies but it did not go as organizers had planned. Instead Tariku told the crowd “Let no youth go to the front lines to fight, let the elders go holding the fresh grass and ask for reconciliation,” before his microphone was switched off by party unknown.

President John F. Kennedy said at the Alliance for Progress in 1962 that “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”. He recognized that dictators oppression of nonviolent protest and dissent can ultimately inflame the cause for war.

In 2018 Abiy Ahmed praised the art community of Ethiopia saying “art has indispensable role in nourishing our cultural life, love, forgiveness and togetherness. The role of the artist is to be a guardian of truth and justice and creatively reveal the richness of our national life”.  However as his ever attempt to tighten controls over everything in Ethiopian life including culture has increased his appreciation for performing artists seems to have changed as have theirs towards him.

On June 29, 2020 the popular Oromo singer, Hachalu Hundessa, was murdered most likely by supporters of Abiy Ahmed. In his quest to consolidate power over the Oromo population the Ethiopian Prime Minister had already imprisoned over 7000 Oromia and overseen the extrajudicial killing of over almost 300 since coming to power in 2018. This singer’s style and message appealed to multiple generations in ballads discussing the subjugation of the Oromo people historically and more recently the expansion of the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa generally considered Amhara territory, into the Oromo national state.  Although Abiy Ahmed was initially seen as a champion of these causes he eventually dropped them preferring his Ahmara identity.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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