News: “We were assaulted by the police”: Artist Hawi H. Qeneni

Artist Hawi suffered fractured bones in her left arm and bruises in her neck and back. She also has several stitches in her forehead

Mahlet Fasil

Addis Abeba, February 17/2020 – Artist Hawi H. Qeneni, the daughter of the famous Afaan Oromo singer, song writer Elfnesh Qeno, dismissed as “false” the town administration’s and the police’s reports about an incident on Saturday, February 15, in Burayu town, Oromia Regional State Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne, in which she and two other artists were beaten.

Three artists: Hawi H. Qeneni (singer), Desalegn Bekema (singer) and Lij Yared (graffiti artist and activist) were all beaten and subsequently admitted to different hospitals. Hawi accused the police of “beating me and others. We were assaulted by the police,” she said. Pictures of the three artists soaked in blood were circulating on social media.

However, the Facebook page of the town’s communication bureau asserted that the incident happened during the hotel inauguration of a local businessman named Addisu Belay in Geferssa Kebele, in a place commonly known as Tserha-Tsion. According to the post, disagreement among attendees happened between those who supported a song calling for Jaal Marroo, the leader of Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel movement in western and southern Oromia, to put down his weapons, and those who opposed it. Without going into detail, the Facebook post accused “some people” of being “politically motivated” and disturbing the peace and stability of the town.

Inspector Anuwar Hussien, Burayu town police deputy head, also told the BBC Amharic that a fight broke out between two groups of people who were attending the inaugural ceremony of the Hotel over “differences of music choices.” Burayu town government communication bureau head Abdella Tibeso repeated the same story to the state-affiliated FanaBC.

But in an interview with Addis Standard from her hospital bed at Ayat Hospital here in the capital, Artist Hawi disputed the statements from both and said that the fight the police and the town’s administration’s communication bureau referred to happened between groups of people “over an auction outside the venue where the Hotel’s inauguration took place.”

“Security forces were in the area and were conducting a crackdown against a group of people; when we asked why they were beating people up, a security officer in civil clothes ordered two police officers in uniform to take us into custody. But instead, the police officers began beating me and others around me; there was no time to explain anything,” Hawi, who carries a Norwegian passport, said, adding that during the beating the police officers have also “accused us of playing pro-OLF songs during the event.”

Hawi suffered fractured bones in her left arm and bruises in her neck and back. She also has several stitches in her forehead. “They held me by my hair and dragged me on the ground for several minutes,” she said. The news of her assault has been picked up by a Norwegian newspaper. Hawi also said the embassy in Addis Abeba was alerted.

When approached by Addis Standard, Inspector Anuwar declined to comment and said he has already spoken to “other journalists” before hanging up his phone. Similarly, an assistant to the town’s communication bureau head said the office will release “a statement about the issue when there is something new to add.”

In a Facebook post late last night, Lij Yared said that he spoke to the police commissioner of Burayu town over the phone. According to Lij Yared, the Commissioner said he would investigate the incident, which happened without his knowledge.

Both artist Desalegn and Lij Yared’s phone numbers were unavailable by the time this news was published and our repeated attempts to contact the hotel’s owner were to no avail. AS

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