By Hashim Adam
Over the last two decades, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s reign saw an unprecedented killing, torture, and harassment of those who dared to speak truth to power.
Seen as a threat to their power, the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, paid a hefty price. Oromo students were dismissed from institutions of learning in large numbers, Oromo artists were either killed or forced into exile, thousands continue to languish in prisons across the country and many others lead a life of exile in their own homes.
One notable artist, Ebbisa Addunya, stands tall among many others who perished while fighting for greater Oromo rights. Ebbisa was a young vocalist who won the hearts and minds of his contemporaries. On August 30, 1996, Zenawi’s security forces assassinated Ebbisa at his own house in Finfinne. Following his tragic death, in its October/November 1996 report, the Oromo Support Group, a UK-based Human Rights group described the incident as follows:
Oromo nationalist singer Ebbisa Addunya and his friend Tana Wayessa were shot dead by government gunmen on August 30th. They were at Ebbisa’s home in the Shiromeda area, No 094, Higher 13, Kebele 01, north of the American Embassy in Addis Ababa, when gunmen burst in. Eyewitnesses claim the bodies were dragged from the house and put in a Land Rover with a government license plate.
The security men who carried out the murders first cleared the street. Residents who looked out of their houses after the gunfire were told to get back indoors. The bodies were recovered next day from the morgue at Menelik II hospital. Following the incident, Ebbisa Addunya’s uncle was called to see the Chief Security Officer of Addis Ababa. He was told that Ebbisa’s killing had been a mistake and that the target had been Tana Wayessa.
The eldest of five siblings, two brothers and three sisters, Ebbisa was born and raised in Dembi Dollo, in Western Oromia, Ethiopia.
For the enormous debt that my generation and I owe him, I dedicate the following poem to Eebbisa Addunya as we remember his legacy on this date. He was a young visionary whose message often wake me up in the middle of the night and make me ponder, “what have I contributed to end a century long suffering of East African people, particularly, the Oromo, if not yet how can I contribute?”
Ebbisa set a very good example of the difference one person can make. He used his talent to raise awareness about the trials and tribulations of Oromo people in such a way that even after more than a decade and half his words profoundly touch our hearts. He left us a matchless legacy. On August 30th, I want to see the thousands of martyrs who paid the ultimate price for my freedom through Ebbisa’s eyes.
Dear Eebbisa, may your soul REST IN PEACE!
*Hashim Adam is the former president of Oromia Student Union and International Oromo Youth Association.