The Grammy Award-boycotting artist The Weeknd continues to step outside of his music persona to help Ethiopians amid violence in the country.
Born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, the Toronto singer-songwriter said Sunday that he will donate $1 million to Ethiopian relief efforts through the UN World Food Programme, while challenging others to give as well. “My heart breaks for my people of Ethiopia as innocent civilians ranging from small children to the elderly are being senselessly murdered and entire villages are being displaced out of fear and destruction,” The Weeknd, whose parents are from Ethiopian, said on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.
“I will be donating $1 million to provide 2 million meals through the United Nations World Food Programme and encourage those who can to please give us well.”
The country made returns to headlines in the past couple of months as thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed and abused during the course of Ethiopia’s five-month-old conflict. A BBC-led investigation published last Thursday corroborated a recent CNN investigation reporting a massacre near Mahibere Dego, a mountainous area of central Tigray.
It is said that men wearing Ethiopian army uniforms executed unarmed men.
On that Friday, the Ethiopian government outright dismissed evidence of these claims taking place. Stemming from last November, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered attacks on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (or TPLF) after Ahmed alleged that TPLF had attacked a federal military base. On March 25, the UN announced that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission would launch a joint investigation into possible crimes.
The Ethiopian government estimated that 4.5 million people need “life-saving” assistance through late this year.
So far, more than two million people have left their homes to escape the violence in the streets, according to Tigray’s interim administration. It has left more than four million people in need of aid. As The Weeknd, Tesfaye has previously donated monies to Aid for Lebanon ($300,000) to help victims of an explosion in Beirut. He also donated $500,000 to the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Right Camp and the National Bail Out Collective.
He has spoken at length about his rich Ethiopian heritage, telling Rolling Stone Magazine in 2015 that his grandmother used to have him attend an Ethiopian Orthodox church in Canada, how his native language was Amharic, and that his vocal style was influenced by fellow Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke.