The Weeknd is stepping in to provide relief to Ethiopia as the country continues to grapple with a brutal internal conflict. The Canadian singer, born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, is the son of Ethiopian immigrants. On Sunday (April 4), Abel took to Instagram to announce that he will be making a considerable donation to the East African country.
“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,” he wrote. “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 as well.”
In February, the U.S. Government produced a report, obtained by The New York Times that states the Ethiopian government and its allied militia are conducting a “systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray.” The northern region has been feuding with the government in Addis Ababa since November when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front allegedly seized the Ethiopian military base in the village of Sero.
Since then, the violence has led to more than 50,000 deaths and millions of refugees, according to The Tigray Independence Party and the National Congress of Great Tigray.
The Grammy award winning recording artist hasn’t spoken publicly before about the current unrest in Ethiopia. In November, Abel gave $30,000 to the University of Toronto’s Ethiopic program. His donation helped the Ethiopic studies department surpass its goal of $500,000 to offer at least one Ge’ez language course each year. In 2016, he gave $50,000 to the program to support another fundraising drive that aims to strengthen the partnership with the University and the Ethiopian-Canadian community.
In a 2015 interview with Pitchfork, The Weeknd discussed how his Ethiopian heritage influences his music. “My mother, my grandmother, my uncles would play Ethiopian artists like Aster Aweke and Mulatu Astatke all the time in the house,” he said. “They would drink coffee, eat popcorn, and listen to the music. It’s such beautiful music, but I didn’t realize how beautiful it was until I left that head space. That’s why I feel like my singing is not conventional. The feeling in my music and in my voice is very Ethiopian and very African and much more powerful than anything, technically.”