Seenaa Solomon is an Oromo singer from Ethiopia who along with six other individuals, including members of her music group and a producer, has been detained since late 2016. On June 29, 2017, Solomon and her collaborators were charged with terrorism-related offenses for creating “inciting” audiovisual material and uploading it to YouTube. In addition to Solomon, the group includes producer/director Elias Kiflu, vocalists Olyaad Bekele and Bailu Necho, and dancers Mo’iibul Misganu, Qeneni Tamiru, and Iffaa Gammachu.
Solomon and the group have been creating resistance music since 2014, when the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) announced plans to expand the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa. This proposal would require the seizure of neighboring farmland in the region of Oromia, the traditional home of the Oromo people. The seven performers have become the voices of a student-led protest movement throughout Oromia, writing and sharing music in Afan Oromo, the language of the region.
The official charges filed in the Ethiopian Federal High Court on June 29 accuse the seven, including singer Seenaa Solomon, of inciting a riot and destabilizing the nation as a result of writing dissident content and sending it abroad to an Ethiopian diaspora organization in Australia for distribution. Similar charges have become commonplace for dissidents since a state of emergency was declared in October 2016 following increased violence throughout Oromia.
Solomon’s group was taken into custody one by one between September 30, 2016 and May 17, 2017. Most of the seven were detained without charge for over six months in Addis Ababa’s Ma’ekelawi, the Ethiopian Central Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which has been a known torture center for over fifty years. Their first hearing was scheduled for July 14, but information about their trials is unclear. The outcome, or if the trials have been held at all, is unknown.
Despite the Ethiopian government’s attempt to criminalize and repress dissidents, Oromo resistance music continues to flourish on YouTube, where some of the group’s videos have garnered upwards of 100,000 views each. This video shows them performing just before their arrest.
We ask you to join us in calling on the Ethiopian government to release Seenaa Solomon and the rest of the group. Art and music are not crimes.