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Inflection point

Inflection point

Countless lives, businesses and scarce infrastructures have perished.

This came about after the mysterious death of Hachalu Hundessa, a 36-year-old entertainer, who sung the music of injustices he saw and witnessed in Oromia. Unfortunately, Hachalu met his fate like his comrades – from the likes of the late Bob Marley and South Africa’s Lucky Dube, who were voices of consciousness yet, like Hachalu died in their 30s.

Hachalu was said to have been shot in Gelan condominium area, Akaki Kaliti Sub City, in the outskirts of the capital.

A once political prisoner of consciousness, he spent more than five years in prison as a 16-year-old and was released as a 22-year-old. The entertainer-cum-activist was determined to use his voice for political pressure. In the last year of his life, he became a critic of some of the reforms of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed which he once championed.

Born in Ambo, a city of heroes, who resisted injustices of the past, the burial of the artist who was married and a father of three, including a one-month-old was as controversial as the man himself. He was a nationalist for some, perhaps a person who was ahead of his time for many others who inspired them to fight what they consider a dark era of the past.

“We chose to have him buried in Ambo so it becomes convenient for us to go to his burial site as often as we would like and cry,” his father cried who simultaneously is burdened with the loss of losing his own brother who was killed by a bomb thrown at his house as he mourned with hundreds.

His own wife, the mother of Hachalu was also injured.

Since his death was announced, there have been many deaths and destruction in many cities and the government estimates there were at least 87 of such deaths in Oromia alone. However, with the blocking of internet by the government and fake news being rampant, there has been no way to verify these numbers.

Haile Resorts, owned by Olympian Haile Gebreselassie in Shashemene and Ziway, including many others have been gutted, denying hundreds of needed employment and their own livelihoods.

“When Haile took over the property of what was then a Bekele Mola property in Shashemene, he gathered us all and told the management that it was a privilege to be guardians of such legacy of his own hero and he wanted to keep is as it is while offering all the signature services our customers have come to expect from Haile,” Tesfaye Asrat, a manager who was once stationed in Zeway and Shashamene, told The Reporter.

“He was very proud of the location and the employees who worked in there and was even planning expansion. Even in the midst of COVID-19, with dwindling business, Haile was paying all of its employees and to him, it was not just business, but service and we are all humbled and hurt by what had transpired,” he added.

Bethlehem Lodge, one of the most beautiful properties in Ziway, in front of the spacious Haile Resort was also burned to the ground, along with trucks parked inside it, most belonging to BGI, who frequently used the hotel as its preferred location for hospitality services.

According to sources, many restaurants and houses were also burned down, including some of the signature butcheries who were a fixture of the city that has seen little development. However, little damage was recorded to the number of Dutch flower farms, as well as the Castel Wine farm, which has been expanding in recent year, now posed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the capital, it was no different.

A number of young men, from surrounding areas gathered in all areas of Addis Ababa – ill prepared personally but transported in uniform-like organization and with no intention of stealing – started throwing rocks, breaking windows to endless properties to create damages on Tuesday the whole day with little opposition and little police presence.

 

Broken windows are becoming common features of the recent act of vandalism
Broken windows are becoming common features of the recent act of vandalism

The next day was different. Many citizens, seeing their properties damaged and more expected to come, decided to protect theirs. There were lots of reports of citizens staying up late in shifts, defending their properties with weapons and casualties reported.

Broken windows

There was also a battle among the visiting young men and young residents and deaths were reported all over the city. The days after the destruction began; there are countless damages to properties, including broken windows to many buildings and damaged vehicles.

 

Shattered facade of V. Karabian Carpets in Piassa
Shattered facade of V. Karabian Carpets in Piassa

In Adama, many hotels and restaurants, who sustained much of the population by providing needed employment were also burned. Among them was Yilma Butchery (Yilma Siga Bet), which was a fixture of the city for more than 40 years, before it branched out to Addis Ababa.

As an iconic restaurant that started here humbly before the children branched out to the capital after the death of their father, they have been investing much on it to keep his legacy alive.

An employee from a Yilma location in the capital described what happened as unbelievable and said, the management is not sure if they will bring back the place once again.

“The restaurant is no more. There is no trace of it. It was burned down in the early morning of Wednesday by young people, who just decided to come and lit it on fire for no obvious reason, affecting the livelihoods of many of our workers”.

In Shashemene, a woman who moved to the city from the capital to open an electric shop was visited by dozens of strangers, accused of hiding the killer of the artist.

She told The Reporter, she was overwhelmed by the sudden presence of this many strangers and as soon as her brother appeared, he was accused of being the one and shaken and threatened to be beaten. She also felt, the constant begging of her elderly father might have been what saved the day for her and her brother was let go.

As the family gathered, worried sick and planned their escape to the capital, many of the same young people returned in the early morning hours, and burned her car and her property to the ground.