Open debate “should be encouraged; no one can be outside the influence of politics and political decisions,” says singer Teddy Afro.

By Elias Meseret (Associated Press) |

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Teddy Afro, Ethiopia’s superstar singer, is topping the Billboard “World Albums” chart with “Ethiopia,” which less than two weeks after its release has sold nearly 600,000 copies, a feat no other artist here has achieved.

Known for the political statements he makes in his music, an infectious mix of reggae and Ethiopian pop, the 40-year-old Tewodros Kassahun [widely known by his stage name Teddy Afro] told The Associated Press that raising political issues should not be a sin.

Open debate “should be encouraged,” he said. “No one can be outside the influence of politics and political decisions.”

Ethiopia is an unlikely place for an outspoken singer to thrive. The government is accused of being heavy-handed on opposing voices.

During a visit this month, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed concern about the state of emergency imposed in October after months of deadly anti-government protests demanding wider freedoms. Opposition and human rights groups blame security forces for hundreds of deaths, but the government says they largely used “proportionate” measures.

The human rights chief also criticized Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws, saying an “excessively broad” definition of terrorism may be misused against journalists and opposition members.

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