April 29, 2008
Ethiopian bloggers defend charged pop star
(Originally published on GlobalVoices)
By Andrew Heavens
Ethiopian bloggers rushed to the defence of their country's top pop singer Teddy Afro, after he appeared in court charged with the hit-and-run killing of a youth in capital Addis Ababa.
Many writers were convinced Afro was being framed by Ethiopian authorities who, they said, resented the singer's huge popularity and veiled anti-government lyrics.
Afro was first questioned by police in November 2006 after a homeless 18-year-old was killed by a car in the centre of Addis Ababa. Officers reportedly claimed Afro's BMW had been spotted at the scene by a taxi driver.
His fans were taken by surprise when Afro was arrested, charged and remanded in custody last week, two years after the original incident. The mainstream media described how fans staged protests outside the court room where a judge decided to postpone a bail hearing.
Teddy Afro - real name Tewodros Kassahun - is hugely popular among Ethiopians in and outside the country. His hit song Yasteseryal (hear a clip on his official site teddyafro.com) - which many say criticises a line of Ethiopian leaders including current prime minister Meles Zenawi - was reportedly banned on state controlled radio.
Merkato published an entry by Golto Aila titled Ethiopia - “My Solidarity Forum” for Teddy Afro - An Ethiopian Hero & a Prisoner of Conscience which stated:
This advocate of justice for our people; this voice for the voiceless; this champion of the oppressed; this ultimate entertainer could have lived in luxury abroad and enjoyed life as most of us do, but knowing the risk to his own life, he returned home to continue the mission he has set for himself! Today he sits in the notorious Kaliti Prison, precisely because of what he does for his down-trodden compatriots! The humiliation he has suffered so far and will continue to suffer hence will be the most poignant symbol of our peoples' suffering for the last two decades!
Debteraw Blog mentioned Afro in a list of “political prisoners” in the entry Tensae Le-Ethiopia.
Addis Tibeb wrote in Teddy Afro arrested:
Many fans believe that Teddy is set up for the charge by the government that is supposed to resent Teddy's public acceptance in his political reprimands by some of his songs
Arefe of Addis Journal stopped short of describing his own opinion of the case, but described the scenes outside the court in Court adjourns Teddy's hearing:
hundreds of cheering and chanting fans had greeted Teddy's arrival. Wearing a T-shirt and sunglasses, Teddy waved as he slowly made his way into the courthouse. As he left the court, the ‘free him' shout became more intense and police surrounded and arrested some of them. A journalist for Hamrawai magazine and another newspaper reporter were among the arrested. It's unclear why police arrested them. It was said they are all detained in the police station in front of the court…
Teddy's arrest weeks ago has generated much interest and anxiety in the city and his songs have enjoyed sudden popularity in the bars, taxis and public places.
freeteddyafro left a message on esai the forum run by The Ethiopian Students Association International:
It is hard to know if Teddy's (imprisonment) is motivated by politics or it is a following judicial process. Teddy is the symbol of Ethiopian new and future generation. He is a bridge for the past, present and future. He is an idol for young generation. Let us bring Teddy to daylight before he disappears forever.
esai commenter Ethiopia said he was convinced Afro was innocent and feared for his chances of a fair trial:
I DONT believe Teddy IS BOTH INHUMAN to leave a dead street kid laying on the ground AND DUMB enough to stay in the country for two years.
Samuel Gebru sounded a lone voice of caution, calling on people not to politicise Afro's case in Ethiopia: Teddy Afro's imprisonment:
Some Ethiopians abroad have tried to capitalize his imprisonment, pending a bail hearing, as the Government's bid to silence the iconic singer…there's a long way ahead before the verdict, so whatever is said abroad is mere speculation. Nevertheless, the politicization of his arrest is not only false but unhealthy in our developing political climate in Ethiopia.
Posted by aheavens at April 29, 2008 3:51 PM