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London Marathon favourite Feyisa Lilesa amazing protest. #OromoProtests April 21, 2017

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 Feyisa Lilesa: I just didn’t have the words to explain to my wife why I’d put her and our children in danger

  • He made a powerful political statement as he crossed the finishing line in Rio
  • The 27-year-old Ethiopian publicised the persecution of the Oromo people 
  • Lilesa is one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon


It looked innocuous and many did not even know what it meant. After 26 miles of gruelling competition, Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa approached the Sambadrome, Rio’s carnival venue and the Olympic marathon finishing line, in second place.

Then he raised his arms and crossed them. And then again, repeating the gesture all the way over the last 100 metres to the finish line. With an Olympic silver medal secured, celebration might have been expected. But as they watched 6,000 miles away back home, his wife and family were fearing the consequences of that simple act.

Unknown to them, Lilesa, 27, one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon, had been running with a goal which surpassed the individual glory of winning an Olympic medal. He had told nobody of his plan, not even his wife and family.

Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa made a political statement as he crossed the finishing line in Rio

Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa made a political statement as he crossed the finishing line in Rio

The crossed arms were a signal of protest about the persecution of his people, the Oromo, in Ethiopia, a country riven by political violence and dispute, where Amnesty International reports at least 800 protesters have been killed. Amnesty has urged the Ethiopian government to end mass arrests and beatings, as well as the unlawful detention of journalists and politicians making the Oromo cause.

‘You can’t even think in your head without feeling suspicious that someone is listening to your thoughts, let alone speaking or telling someone,’ says Lilesa. ‘So I made a decision that I had to keep it to myself. Because if I was to tell someone — even my family — and the word gets out, I would not even be able to go to Rio. So I went there having not told a single person.’

That made his first phone call to his wife, Iftu Mulisa, and children, daughter Soko, five, and son Sora, three, a traumatic affair. While many Oromo people were jubilant their cause was being publicised, his wife was aghast. There was no question in his mind of returning to Ethiopia. However, his family were stuck there.

‘When I first called her I just didn’t have the words to tell her and I didn’t have the words to say to her,’ he says. ‘It was a challenge initially just talking to her and explaining my decision and why I didn’t consult with them.

Lilesa with his wife, daughter Soko, five, and son Sora in their apartment in Arizona

Lilesa with his wife, daughter Soko, five, and son Sora in their apartment in Arizona

‘But she understood the importance of this. The problem in the country has reached every household. They understand the importance and what it means. Their two main differences were that I did not consult with them when I was planning this and not having a concrete plan for them or the future and what might happen to them.

‘This gesture was started by university students and people knew about it. A lot of people were arrested essentially for showing that gesture. Coincidentally, that same day, the government stopped a rally in Addis Ababa. People went home because the city was engulfed by military forces and they happened to be watching TV.

‘The race was being broadcast on state television when it happened, the first time I showed the gesture. But since I kept repeating it, they quickly cut the live transmission and went back to the studio. People understood why the transmission was cut abruptly.

‘Of course my family was scared and they were shocked because they didn’t know what would happen to me. I had fears for my family. But a lot of people were getting killed. I knew it was just a matter of time before it reached my family. It has touched almost every household.

Lilesa's wife was aghast that he had publicised the persecution of the Oromo people

Lilesa’s wife was aghast that he had publicised the persecution of the Oromo people

‘In fact, my brother-in-law was one of the people arrested and taken away from university and he remains in jail to this day. Young people were being killed, elderly were being killed. My friends were in jail and I had other friends who were being killed. So my family also feared the same fate. I feared they would be affected one day and that they had not was just that it was not their turn.

‘But generally at the time, I didn’t really care much about my life and the consequences this would bring to my family, because I knew the fate other people were going through in that country.’

Lilesa knew he needed a medal for his plan to succeed. ‘If I didn’t win a medal no one would have noticed me. No one would have seen my protest. It would not have had the impact. No one would have actually believed my story and I could have potentially returned to Ethiopia and bad things might have happened to me. So winning the medal was part of my plan.’

He was briefly in no man’s land in Rio de Janiero. Though he says many team-mates and officials supported his protest, he was persona non grata. ‘They don’t even want to see my face, so I don’t expect them to allow me to run for the country,’ he says.

The Ethiopian government have encouraged him to return home, saying he would be welcome. He does not believe them. ‘I didn’t have fears about my life but I did have fears that I might not be able to compete,’ he says. ‘I thought this was the end of my career as an athlete.’

The 27-year-old is one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon

The 27-year-old is one of the favourites for next Sunday’s London Marathon

Fears for his family and career have now been addressed. Ethiopian exiles arranged a flight from Brazil to the US and he is now based in Flagstaff, Arizona, a magnet for top-class distance runners, where he can train properly.

Last month he won the New York Half Marathon in preparation for the London Marathon. More significantly, in February his family were finally permitted to join him in the US.

The reunion was understandably an emotional affair, Soko sprinting into her father’s arms when she finally saw him at the airport. ‘This was very, very important,’ he says. ‘And at least my mind is in one place in the sense that this is one weight lifted off my back. Now that at least I don’t have to worry about the safety of my children.

‘Also, I was living alone and I didn’t have much help. Now that my wife is here she can at least help me with some things I need. But the problem that put me in this position — the problem of my people — remains. My worries and concerns about that remain.’

His protests will continue. He is critical of those icons of Ethiopian athletics, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, the latter of whom he will face in London, who he says have benefited from keeping quiet and not criticising the government.

‘I admire Haile as a runner, as champion and as someone who broke a world record,’ says Lilesa. ‘But on the other hand rich people are generally benevolent and they give back to their people and they help the poor. In Ethiopia, the rich people we have are selfish and greedy and they live a parasitic life where they attach themselves to the government.’

A representative of Gebrselassie and Bekele responded by saying that such criticisms did not take account of the complicated and volatile political situation in Ethiopia, where they both still live.

LILESA wants people, especially the British, to know more about the plight of the Oromo in Ethiopia. ‘Our people are being imprisoned, hundreds remain in jail. Others are being killed. Over the past year, people have been dropping like leaves. Others are running away to save their lives — to South Africa — and have died along the way.

‘The Oromo people are the majority in my country. They have a lot resources in terms of the economy. Despite that, we don’t have the political power. They have lost all their freedoms and rights.

‘I want people in England to put pressure on their government because they do provide the biggest amount of aid to the Ethiopian government, to use that leverage not to cosy up to the Ethiopian rulers but to change their behaviour and to allow our people to have their freedom and rights.

‘We don’t hate the people of Ethiopia. Our fight and issues are with the system. What I expressed is based on my experience. I’m speaking about the injustices I saw all my life. The world may not have known… until now.’


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-4415224/London-Marathon-favourite-Feyisa-Lilesa-amazing-protest.html#ixzz4ePMWijwV
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BBC:  Africa Highlights: Feyisa to protest killings at London Marathon


thiopia elite runner Feyisa Lilesa poses during a photocall for the men"s marathon elite athletes outside Tower Bridge in central London on April 20, 2017 ahead of the upcoming London Marathon

AFP

The athlete says he could be killed if he goes back home

Exiled Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa has vowed to protest against the government at Sunday’s London Marathon, saying “blood is flowing” in his home country.

Feyisa caught the world’s attention when made a protest gesture in solidarity with the Oromo people while crossing the line in the marathon race at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

In an interview with the BBC’s Sport Today, the silver medalist said he did not regret making the gesture.

How can I regret [it]? I come from the people. My people are dying, still. The blood is flowing.”

He added that would not return to Ethiopia while the current government was in power as he would be “automatically” killed, jailed or barred from leaving the country.

Feyisa refused to go back to Ethiopia after the Olympics, despite the government saying he would be welcomed as a hero.

He is currently living in the US with his wife and children on a temporary visa.

In Rio, Feyisa became the first Ethiopian to finish in the top two of a men’s Olympic marathon since 2000, claiming silver behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.

As he crossed the line, he lifted his arms to form an X above his head, the same gesture used in protests by the Oromo people, the country’s largest ethnic group, which has suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

Feyisa Lilesa

Getty Images

The ‘X’ sign is used as a symbol of protest in Ethiopia

The state-backed Ethiopia Human Rights Commission  said earlier this week that 669 people were killed in protests since November 2015.

The government has blamed the violence on “terrorists”.

A state of emergency has ben in force since last October to curb the unrest.

Read: Endurance test for Feyisa

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BBC: Oromia: No regrets for Ethiopia’s Olympic protester. #OromoProtests #OromoRevolution January 4, 2017

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Feyisa Lelisa  Rio Olympian and world icon of #OromoProtestsHero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisaa.

BBC: No regrets for Ethiopia’s Olympic protester

Feyisa Lilesa caught the world’s attention when he raised his arms in solidarity with the Oromo people as he crossed the finishing line at the Rio Olympic games. He tells Julian Keane what the gesture has cost him.

Africa News: Oromia’s Olympic athlete, Feyisa Lilesa, has been named among the 2016 top 100 global thinkers by the Foreign Policy (FP) magazine. December 13, 2016

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FP  Global Thinkers  2016: The challengers, FEYISA LILESA

 

Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Feyisa Lelisa Rio Olympian and world icon of #OromoProtestsoromorevolution-thefinalmarchforfreedom

Olympic athlete, Feyisa Lilesa, has been named among the 2016 top 100 global thinkers by the US based Foreign Policy (FP) magazine.

Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa. p1

Ethiopia’s Olympic athlete, Feyisa Lilesa, has been named among the 2016 top 100 global thinkers by the US based Foreign Policy (FP) magazine. Feyisa was classed in the group of thinkers called ‘‘the challengers.’‘

The long distance athlete became famous during the just ended Rio Olympic games after he made an anti-government gesture at the end of his track event. He crossed his arms above his head as he finished the event as a protest against the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on political dissent.

He won the silver medal in the men’s marathon after finishing the 42 kilometer race. He later claimed that his life was in danger. He sought for asylum in the United States and has been living there since leaving Rio.

Given the fact that the Olympic Charter bans political propaganda, demonstrations are a rarity at the games. Nevertheless, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa snubbed the rulebook in order to call attention to the brutal actions of his country’s security forces.

Under the title, ‘‘For breaking the rules of the games,’‘ FP wrote about Feyisa: ‘‘Given the fact that the Olympic Charter bans political propaganda, demonstrations are a rarity at the games. Nevertheless, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa snubbed the rulebook in order to call attention to the brutal actions of his country’s security forces.

‘‘As the marathoner approached the finish line in second place, he crossed his arms over his head—an attention-grabbing gesture to show solidarity with his Oromo tribe. In the weeks before the race, the Ethiopian government had cracked down on protests by the embattled indigenous group and killed dozens.

They went on to quote him in an interview with AP news agency as saying, “If I would’ve taken my medal and went back to Ethiopia, that would’ve been the biggest regret of my life.” Adding further that “I wanted to be a voice for a story that wasn’t getting any coverage.”

Feyisa like the twelve others listed in his category were recognized for challenging the status quo in order to put their views across. ‘‘These individuals showed that agitation takes myriad forms,’‘ the FP said.

Aside Feyisa, another African was listed in the same category. Pastor Evan Mawarire of Zimbabwe who championed the #ThisFlag protests through the use of social media platform, Twitter. The FP listed him ‘‘For initiating a democratic movement.’‘

Olympics dissident: Ethiopia could ‘become another Libya’ November 15, 2016

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Olympics dissident: Ethiopia could ‘become another Libya’

EXCLUSIVE/ Ethiopia – one of the EU’s largest recipients of development aid and a key partner in the new Emergency Trust Fund for Africa for halting the flow of migrants – garnered unwelcome headlines last summer, when Olympic athlete Feyisa Lilesa raised his arms in protest at the treatment of the Oromia and Amhara peoples.

He talked to EurActiv.com’s development correspondent, Matthew Tempest.

Since then, the government has declared a state of emergency, as – according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – at least 500 people have died at the hands of the security services.

Interview by EurActiv last month, the Ethiopian Ambassador to the EU refused to put an official figure on the death toll. But speaking to EurActiv today, Feyisa said that the real death toll was over 1,000 and his home country – from which he is now about to seek political asylum – could end up in a Libya-style civil war.

[This interview was conducted via a translator]

When I spoke to the Ethiopian ambassador to the EU last month, he made a public assurance that you and your family would be safe. Do you trust that?

This is what they always say. I might be killed or imprisoned if I return home.

ETHIOPIAN AMBASSADOR: ‘ANTI-PEACE ELEMENTS’ TOOK ADVANTAGE OF OROMIA, AMHARA PROTESTS

Ethiopia is a secure, stable country in the Horn of Africa, says Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the EU, Teshome Toga. However, he admits “gaps” in governance have fuelled year-long protests that have left hundreds dead.

EurActiv.com

The symbol that the TV cameras at the Olympics caught you doing with your arms in Rio, is that supposed to symbolise the ‘X’ of a voting ballot paper? Because Ethiopia is, at least technically, a democracy.

No. It is a sign my people make above their heads to show the police they are unarmed. If we had our hands in our pockets, we might be shot. It is to show our protests are unarmed and peaceful, and to represent the fact that we are all in a prison [Ethiopia].

And why are you here today in Brussels?

To meet with MEPs from the European Parliament to discuss our situation in Ethiopia, and with the head of cabinet for the Parliament President. It was very successful.

And what is your personal situation at the moment?

I have not sought political asylum yet. I have been in the USA long-term since two weeks after the Rio Olympics.

Have your family and relatives back in Ethiopia had any threats from the authorities there?

I am very, very concernced about my family. We live around 60 miles from Addis Ababa, west of the capital, in the Oromia region.

They might attack us in different ways, indirectly. Only 1% of my family actually have jobs. Yet the wife of my brother, who is a journalist, was fired from her job two weeks ago. With no reason given.

They are advancing on us with other measures.

The crux of the issue in Ethiopia seems to be that whilst it is a democracy in theory, the Tigray people have disproportionate power as opposed to the Omoria and Amhara peoples?

Yes – as you say, it is a “democracy”. But the key government and military and defence and police and economic positions are dominated by them [the Tigray].

‘STATE OF EMERGENCY’ DECLARED IN ETHIOPIA AS PROTEST DEATH TOLL RISES

The Ethiopian government on Sunday (10 October) declared a state of emergency, following a year-long spate of unrest which spiked in a week of deaths and attacks on buildings and foreign companies.

EurActiv.com

Based on what you hear from people on the ground, what do you think the death toll from protests over the last year to 18 months would be?

Oromia is a very large region – probably as big as two or three European countries. It has no big road network and very little infrastructure, so it is difficult to get numbers.

But I would say 500 is a very, very small estimate. I would say it is at least 1,000.

And as a voice and a face of the Oromia people now, what would your ideal solution be to the question of representation?

The demand from the public is really not all that complicated at all. It is a demand for equality, for basic human rights, and for an equal share of resources.

And are you optimistic that can happen without further bloodshed?

I am concerned. It is very difficult to be optimistic. At the beginning of the protests [in late 2015], for the first week or two, I was optimistic. But the government crackdown soon came, and this situation has continued.

Ethiopia could become like Libya.

Is that your worst nightmare?

I am very much concerned at this kind of conflict could emerge because they [the authorities] are trying to create tensions between the Amhara and Tigray and others, and because of that, things could get worse in the region.

All though my school life, we had this. In Grade 9, three of my friends were killed by the regime. It continued in 2014. The epicentre was to the west of Addis Ababa. There were other major incidents, killing, repression, and exile.

Repression in the past year was very intensive, even as I was training [for the Olympics]. I have no other job, I was just training. Three months before Rio, they asked me to participate [in the Olympic team], and it was at that point I decided to make my gesture.

And what is your life like currently?

I am now in Arizona. I have permission to stay in the US. Running is my job, and it is my survival. I had much help from the Ethiopian diaspora of exiles, with people helping to facilitate my visa, and fundraising there for me.

FURTHER READING

The Ethiopian embassy to the EU offered an official response to this interview, which EurActiv.com is happy to publish (15/11/2016):

Though Feyisa Lilesa has the right to share his opinion about the situation in Ethiopia, it is important to give a nuanced view of the reality in the country.

The exact number of demonstrators who died during the protests is still investigated by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). A previous report by EHRC in June 2016 on the unrests that started in November 2015 established that the measures taken by the defense forces and the federal police in collaboration with the public to control the situation were proportionate, though in some specific cases security forces used excessive force to control the violence. According to this report, 173 people died including 14 members of the security forces and another 14 public administrators. Following this report, the Ethiopian Prime Minister H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn has shared the regrets of the government for the avoidable deaths which occurred despite the professional conduct of security forces.

Furthermore, the claim that the Ethiopian authorities are «trying to create tensions between the Amhara and Tigray» is not grounded in reality. Each region is self-administrated, and the national Parliament, the government cabinets and other institutions are representing the different peoples according to their size.  With more than 80 ethnic groups in the country, the authorities have no better option than insuring peaceful coexistence between the different communities and exercising democracy, which has yet a very young history in the country − merely 25 years.

Finally, Feyisa Lilesa is implying that Ethiopia could become «another Libya», probably thereby meaning that the country could fall into chaos and instability. This might in fact precisely be the agenda of extreme anti-peace forces trying to divide the country and take advantage of a situation of chaos which would suit their hidden agendas. Widespread attacks encouraged by some extreme diaspora elements targeting public and private properties, including several foreign investments providing thousands of jobs to local communities testify of this agenda of destruction and chaos. However, the government is fully committed to restore order in the country for the benefit of the citizens and development of the country. The Prime Minister has, in accordance with the Constitution and with the approval of the House of People’s Representatives, announced a State of Emergency beginning of October. Since then, peace and order have been restored throughout the country, and some of the measures have been eased in the meantime, including lifting of travel restrictions for diplomats.

It is to be hoped that the commitment of the authorities and the public will further improve the situation in the country. However, unbalanced and biased comments in the media such as this interview are not helping to advance in this direction.


 

Pambazuka News: Some thoughts on the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. #Oromorotests #OromoRevolution November 13, 2016

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ethiopia-is-one-of-the-most-fragile-states-in-the-world-failed-state-tyrannic-famine

Ethiopia is descending into possible civil war. With the recent declaration of a state of emergency, the country is in turmoil due to exploitation of the long-suffering people of Oromia, Ogaden, Gambella and other ethnic groups by the ruling TPLF elite in partnership with international enablers such as China and the United States. TPLF exploitation and widespread repression have created highly rebellious resentment among the people.

The revolts in Ethiopia have the potential for creating radical, beneficial changes in the political order or instigating complete chaos that crosses its borders and destabilizes the entire fragile Horn of Africa region, for the outcomes of such uprisings have varied considerably from country to country. These protests can be the catalyst for building a new and democratic Ethiopia or end up in tears and disillusionment, as in Libya, South Sudan and many other places in the world. Countries emerging from dictatorships are particularly vulnerable and Ethiopia is certainly under a vicious dictatorship.

The events in Ethiopia are being described as “Intifada,” “Ethiopian Spring” or as something akin to the Color Revolutions in the Ukraine and Georgia and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China. During the uprising in 2005 protesting the rigged election, the late chief of the Tigrean Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) and Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, did say that there would not be any more Color Revolutions in Ethiopia. That uprising was put down with hundreds dead and thousands in concentration camps.

This time, however, the revolts are widespread and they appear beyond the power of the state to control and put down. Apparently, Mr. Zenawi spoke prematurely. Technological innovation is a very important part of this current political mass mobilization which is why the government has moved with cutting Ethiopia off from the internet and dismantling satellite dishes from the homes of ordinary citizens. Drawing on satellite television, mobile phones and the Internet, the revolts are spreading. Within seconds, activists send their messages against the tyranny. Unsurprisingly, the TPLF oligarchy is extremely fearful of social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and the diaspora media.

In this piece, I want to reflect on three points:

1. The celebrity factor: Feyisa Lilesa Versus Prime Minister Halemariam Desalegn

2. Mr. Abay Tsehaye’s reference to Rwanda

3. The newly declared State of Emergency

The celebrity factor: Feyisa Lilesa versus Prime Minister Halemariam Desalegn

In the wake of the Rio Olympics, the profile of the Ethiopian uprising got a boost from Feyisa Lilesa, with his heroic act of crossing his arms on winning the silver medal for marathon, a signature symbol of solidarity of the oppressed Oromo nation to which Feyisa belongs. The influence of the celebrity athlete for social change is formidable, and Feyisa has emerged as a powerful voice for the struggle of his Oromo people, causing nervous shivers in the beleaguered regime. What the death and imprisonment of thousands of Oromos couldn’t accomplish in Ethiopia was achieved by his symbolic act at the finish line. Now the whole world is clued into the terrible conditions in Ethiopia and beginning to learn about the plight of the Oromo people.

Other Ethiopian athletes have since used their successes to follow suit. Ebsa Ejigu, Tamiru Demissie and Hirut Guangul have used their international successes to publicize the plight of their country’s men and women to an international audience. This trend is likely to continue now as other athletes and celebrities are losing their fear of retaliation and becoming more and more willing to participate in what has become a growing national movement. Yes, these athletes will pay a price. Lilesa is now separated from his wife and children and beckoning an unknown fate. Life in exile will not be easy even for famous athletes. But compared to those losing lives and limbs to bullets in Ethiopia, it is a small price to pay. They are heroes, and their names are already inscribed in history books.

The TPLF reaction to Lilesa’s heroic act can be gleaned from statements given by PM Hailemariam Desalegn. Although the PM is from the Wolayta ethnic group, which was traditionally relegated to the periphery of the Ethiopian mainstream, he has become a willing accomplice and spokesman for the TPLF. Most people regard him as an accidental PM who happened to be in the right place and at the right time when his powerful boss, PM Meles Zenawi passed away in the summer of 2012. He was handpicked as Zenawi’s deputy because he wasn’t a threat and, as a non-Tigrean, served as a convenient cover and a token representing “diversity” for the TPLF. He is so loyal to the late PM, he still refers to the Meles “vision” in his public pronouncements. Most Ethiopians know that he is just a figurehead with no real power. Yet, in an interview conducted with the online Foreign Policy.com, he is quoted as saying:

“It’s me who sent [Lilesa] to Rio for the Olympics, and we expected him to come back after winning the medal. . . . [T]his is not the capacity of the man himself. It’s something which has been orchestrated by someone else from outside.”

It is remarkable that the PM has the audacity to say he sent Feyisa Lilesa to the Olympics, as if Feyisa needed his charitable permission. It is crystal clear that Feyisa earned his place in the Olympics.

One can readily concede that he may have acquiesced to nepotism by sending to the Olympics the unqualified son of the head of the sports federation, Robel Kiros Habte, who made Ethiopia a laughing stock with his hopeless performance in a swimming race. But no one can doubt that Feyisa went to the Olympics because he was Ethiopia’s best hope for the marathon. And he delivered in no unmistakable terms by winning a silver medal competing with the best and the elites in the world. It is hard to believe that Desalegn referring to Feyisa actually said: “This is not the capacity of the man himself” – thus exposing his own pomposity, shallowness and contempt for the Oromo hero. Clearly, Desalegn has sold his soul to the TPLF devil. To suggest that Feyisa cannot think for himself and act on his own is inexcusably ignorant and arrogant and unbecoming of a prime minster.

Feyisa is not only a fine athlete; he is also a dignified, proud, principled and articulate Oromo and Ethiopian, as he amply demonstrated during the press conference in the Washington D.C. rally where Congressman Chris Smith also spoke. Also, in a direct reply to the PM’s insult, Feyisa quipped:

“I was not surprised by his comments because individuals who are always controlled by others tend to assume everyone is that way as well. . . . Unlike the prime minister, I make my own decisions and speak for myself.”

Indeed, Desalegn is a sellout with little dignity, reading and parroting whatever script is given to him by the TPLF. The pretentious PM has replaced the real world with a make-believe virtual world. It is for this reason that he is unable to see realities on the ground; he is temporarily sheltered behind a wall whose mortar is sychophantic servitude and a wicked willingness to say and do anything to appease his TPLF benefactors.

It is beyond regrettable that Desalegn is unable to see the rapid downside toward further chaos and civil war in Ethiopia that is due to the abject misery and oppression suffered by the people who are subjected to the policies of those he is serving and to whom he has sold his soul. He calls himself a born-again Christian with a straight face. How would Jesus himself, who stood up to the hypocritical Pharisees and threw the money-changers out of the temple in Jerusalem, have regarded a man like Desalegn, who is in bed with the TPLF elites who are the modern day equivalent of the Pharisees in Ethiopia and whose words and actions rarely match? The human suffering that is the result of the violent and continuous repression cannot be seen from inside their ideological castles resting on the thin air of empty rhetoric and shameless self-promotion.

Desalegn would be well advised to keep his mouth closed to spare himself more disgrace. He has already sunk into the deep end of an abyss. It is depressing to see a human being selling out his people and becoming a slave of oppressors.

Invoking the specter of Rwanda

The TPLF ideologue and one of the real powers behind the throne, Mr. Abay Tsehaye, in an interview with the pro-government Radio Fana, compared the situation of Rwanda in the early 90s to the current situation in Ethiopia. He correctly stated that Rwanda was comprised of only two ethnic groups (the Hutu and the Tutsi), really not much of a country, and was on the verge of disintegration. He went on to say that reconciliation occurred and the country recovered. In Ethiopia with over eighty ethnic groups, if the situation goes “out of control,” he concluded, Ethiopia will cease to exist as a country. Every thoughtful person worries about this. However, one can reasonably surmise from his analysis that Ethiopia under the control of his Tigray-dominated government, who make up only six percent of the Ethiopian population, is his guarantee for holding the country together. Mr. Tsehaye fails to recognize the draconian hegemonic policies of his regime as the very reasons for the grim state of affairs in the country. As the Ethiopian uprising makes clear, the various ethnicities are no longer buying TPLF shenanigans and see the TPLF itself as the main cause of Ethiopia’s predicament, as the country descends into possible civil war.

For anyone willing to see the truth, Ethiopia is in a state of turmoil due to the exploitation of the long-suffering people of Oromia, Ogaden, Gambella and other ethnic groups by the TPLF elite in partnership with international enablers such as China and the United States, the principal rivals in Africa and the Horn region. The TPLF exploitation, in which valuable resources and political roles are dominated by a minority elite that has transformed itself into an oligarchy, has created highly rebellious resentment by the victims while reinforcing a sense of ethnic identity and consciousness. Faced with increased intrusion into their lands by so-called international investors, by the displacement and stunted developments they experience and by the breakdown of their social fabric, Ethiopians are mobilizing to resist.

The government’s state-driven development projects financed by international investors and partners bypass the rural peasants and pastoralists, alienating the people and reinforcing the politics of deep ethnic hierarchy. Recent events have made it clear that TPLF’s “constitutional federalism” has more to do with its divide-and-rule strategy and its elitist allocation of national resources, comparable to actions of the former Soviet Communist Party, which retained tight control over its regions through local parties. The TPLF set up People’s Democratic Organizations, local versions of the ruling party, which squeezed out traditional authority.

The co-opted ethnic leaders from these regions have either completely lost credibility, are sitting on the fence, or are jumping ship to support the resistance. Key former government figures like Junedin Sado are breaking their silence and speaking out with scathing attacks on the regime. He has apologized to the Ethiopian people for the time that he served under the regime. The so- called coalition that the TPLF built is beginning to unravel. Some Amhara and some Oromo are coming together against the TPLF, overcoming but not necessarily forgetting, the legacy of the historic oppression by Amhara elites which began with Menelik II.

Abay Tsehaye and TPLF leaders will need to face reality — if they have it in them to be truly concerned about Ethiopian unity. Oromo historical grievances are not myths, as some revisionist history asserts. Oromo land is the most fertile and lush in Ethiopia, in contrast to the northern Ethiopian highlands with its rugged mountains and thin soils contributing relatively little to national economic production, but the Oromo have been alienated from control over their land throughout the 20th century first by the Amhara and now by the new TPLF overlords.

Acutely divided societies in which no single faction can impose its view might find an ability to arrive at political compromises in a constitutional form. But in Ethiopia, the hegemonic Amhara and now the Tigreans have excluded others from real power-sharing making true constitutionalism elusive. The leaders see the state as a prize to be won, a basis for private accumulation and patronage. But there is not enough patronage to go around, and those excluded from it mobilize their co-religionists and ethnic groups in an increasingly unmanageable opposition.

The State of Emergency

In response, the TPLF is relying on intensified repression by security forces, ethnic loyalists and the army. And for the first time in twenty-five years, the regime has declared a State of Emergency, clearly showing how rattled it is by the rebellion in the country. The Prime Minster announced:

“The cause of this (state of emergency) is that anti-peace forces in collaboration with foreign enemies of the country are making organised attempts to destabilise our country, to disrupt its peace and also to undermine the existence and security of its peoples.”

This response undoubtedly means more sticks and further erosion of civil liberties in the country but is unlikely to quell the unrest. One of the targets of the State of Emergency is the Internet and Social Media. PM Desalegn did make it a point to rant against diaspora media and the Internet during his appearance in September at the United Nations General Assembly:

“In fact, we are seeing how misinformation could easily go viral via social media and mislead many people, especially the youth…Social media has certainly empowered populists and other extremists to exploit people’s genuine concerns and spread their message of hate and bigotry without any inhibition…it is critical to underline one matter which is usually given short shrift, both by the media and others. It is simply hypocritical to deny that some of our countries have been targets for destabilization activities carried out with no accountability by people and groups who have been given shelters by States with whom we have absolutely no problems.”

The regime that Desalegn serves is responsible for suffocating the Ethiopian people by denying them any alternative media. The Ethiopian government is one of the top jailers and harassers of anyone daring to publish or practice independent journalism within the country. Now, Desalegn is shedding his crocodile tears about his inability to control and suppress social media and broadcasting emanating from the diaspora. While he has a point about the inherent potential for the abuse of social media, the regime is responsible for bringing criticisms on itself. In the absence of media freedom in the country, social media and broadcasting from the diaspora acquired enormous significance for Ethiopians hungry for information. It is clear that Ethiopians no longer trust the regime and have little confidence in official government news, which in reality is mostly propaganda.

Authoritarian regimes adopt various forms of censorship to depoliticize the population and prevent the questioning of their legitimacy. By definition, authoritarian regimes demand strict submission by the media to their political authority. They do so by publishing or broadcasting deceptions in order to maintain their power structures. For example, the regime’s media censored Feyisa’s symbolic gesture in Rio while proclaiming that Feyisa is a national hero and welcome to return home, without any consequences.

The advent of the Internet has somewhat leveled the playing field by empowering regular Internet users to become content producers by utilizing decentralized and distributed networks such as social media. These uses of media pose a great danger to dictatorial regimes, which are moving to subvert, block social media and limit internet use, as in Ethiopia today.

China is the leading culprit in creating the technology to enable censorship which it is sharing with the Ethiopian government. This suppression of the media will not succeed. Freedom-loving people find ways to circumvent these barriers and make determined efforts to stay informed – and, in turn, to inform the whole world.

* Yohannes Woldemariam is an educator and author. This article previously appeared on the Huffington Post’s Contributor platform.

One Of The World’s Best Long Distance Runners Is Now Running For His Life November 4, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomistOromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1

Oromo Olympian Fayyisaa Leellisaa (Feyisa Lilesa) draws big crowd at his Minneapolis appearance-18 September 2016

Oromo Olympian Fayyisaa Leellisaa (Feyisa Lilesa) draws big crowd at his Minneapolis appearance-18 September 2016

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7


One Of The World’s Best Long Distance Runners Is Now Running For His Life

As marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed the finish line to win the silver medal at the Olympics this summer, he raised his arms over his head in an X to defiantly protest the Ethiopian government’s treatment of his fellow Oromo people. Three months later, unable to go home or see his family, he contemplates the price of being a world-class athlete speaking out.


As 26-year-old Ethiopian Olympic marathoner Feyisa Lilesa neared the finish line at the 2016 Rio Olympics with what would be a blazing time of 2:09:54, fast enough to win a silver medal in the men’s marathon, he felt no sudden wave of euphoria.

Instead, Lilesa took a deep breath and carried out the plan he’d dreamed about from the moment he was selected to compete in Rio: He crossed his arms above his head in an X. Putting them down for a quick moment and raising them again, he held the gesture as he ran through the finish line with his country’s strife running through his head.

“I knew by all accounts I was supposed to feel happiness in that moment, but all I could think about was the people dying back home,” the long-distance runner told me in Amharic when we spoke in Washington, DC, in September.

Lilesa’s gesture was unfamiliar to most international viewers, but Ethiopian audiences around the world recognized it immediately as the sign associated with anti-government protests stemming from Lilesa’s home region of Oromia, which have been growing in breadth and intensity since November 2015. The #OromoProtests contend that the country’s current government represses its largest ethnic population both culturally and economically.

Later, after flowers were placed around his neck at the end of the race, Lilesa prepared to make a second statement — this time at the post-race press conference. Stepping up to the conference-area podium with his official jacket unzipped — to disrupt the block text bearing Ethiopia’s name — he raised his arms once again and crossed his wrists above his head, spotlighting a wristband in Oromo colors: black, white, and red. If the first gesture could have been interpreted as spontaneous, Lilesa used this second one to make evident his long-held plan to speak out.

Feyisa Lilesa crosses the finish line to win silver during the men’s marathon. Matthias Hangst / Getty Images

Despite government spokesman Getachew Reda’s insistence that Lilesa would receive a “hero’s welcome” if he returned to Ethiopia, Lilesa told reporters in Rio he knew he could not go home without either being either jailed or killed for his actions. In fact, subsequent airings of the Olympics in Ethiopia did not show his gesture, and few state-run print publications covered that or even his win — at all.

Lilesa told journalists he’d seen the government’s duplicity with his own eyes: “The state-run Oromia TV posted on Facebook after I won saying, ‘Feyisa Lilesa successfully sent the terrorists’ message to the international community,’ but they immediately took down that message and changed their narrative” to a more positive one echoing spokesman Reda’s statement.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter forbids explicit political activity, decreeing that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.” But sports — and the Olympics in particular — have long played host to protests both quiet and overt, a stage for the world’s greatest to express both physical rigor and patriotic dissent.

In 1968, American gold and bronze medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos were sent home from the Summer Olympics in Mexico City and suspended from the US team for raising a fist in the air as they stood on the podium during the national anthem. In the aftermath of the protest, they lost their medals, their reputations, their friends, and in Carlos’s case, a marriage. Lilesa had never heard of John Carlos and Tommie Smith before he protested, and Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest had not yet garnered headlines. Becoming a hero or entering historical record was never part of Lilesa’s plan.

But online, Ethiopians around the world were discussing his historic show of solidarity. All over Facebook, Viber, and WhatsApp, Oromo people were changing their avatars to pictures of Lilesa with hands raised and wrists crossed in front of him. At the end of his race, he’d emerged a hero to Oromos everywhere, even with his own future uncertain.

Days later, Lilesa saw rumors on social media that his friend Kebede Fayissa was among the countless dead after a fire — and officers’ bullets — erupted at a prison just outside Addis Ababa. He called home from his Rio hotel; confirmation of the news strengthened his resolve to continue speaking out.

American athletes Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right), protest with the Black Power salute at the Summer Olympic Games, Mexico City, October 1968. John Dominis / Getty Images

For Lilesa, the choice to protest came at tremendous personal cost. His wife and two young children, whom he did not inform of his plan to protest, live in the nation’s capital. He kept the decision from them, afraid they might compel him to change his mind. As an athlete, he supported them and his extended family, living a fairly comfortable life compared with those around him: He had his own house, a car, and an athletic career that had been thriving since he’d won the Dublin Marathon at only 19. Athletes are among the most respected public figures in the country, and remaining publicly apolitical — or even performing gratitude to the Ethiopian Athletics Federation — would have eased Lilesa into a simpler life. But amid the chaos that ensued after his protest, Lilesa lost valuable training time; his diet changed in transit, and the stress of impending exile wore on him.

The resultant series of setbacks will keep him from competing in this year’s New York City Marathon. Afraid to return home amid worsening political unrest, Lilesa is now training in Arizona for April’s London Marathon. Nine thousand miles away from his wife, his children, and the community he holds closest, he contemplates the personal cost of his protest.

To stay silent with the world’s eyes trained on him would have been a wasted opportunity to attract the media and political attention Lilesa believes is necessary to bring about change in Ethiopia. Progress in the region has not been linear, but Lilesa’s actions marked a catalyst: In the months since his protest, Western media coverage of the country’s political affairs has both increased and taken on a more widespread critical lens. “The little happiness I feel now is because I was able to show the world our desire for peace and it’s reached the world’s media,” he said.

But Lilesa himself lives in fear despite being one of the world’s most celebrated and talented elite athletes, the course of his life and career effectively derailed by the decision to speak out. At the apex of his career, one of the best runners in the world is now running for his life.

Feyisa Lilesa, photographed on September 13, 2016. T.J. Kirkpatrick for BuzzFeed News

The Oromo account for almost 40% of Ethiopia’s population — an estimated 39 million people — and a disproportionate amount of the nation’s elite runners. Born in 1990, Feyisa Lilesa grew up in Jaldu, a district in the West Shewa region of Oromia. The child of farmers, he was the second of seven children raised in a farming community about 75 miles west of Addis Ababa. Like many children in the surrounding area, Lilesa grew up thinking of running as a way to get to his classes — or as fellow runner Biruk Regassa told me, “When school is far, everyone is a runner.”

Since November 2015, protests in the region have sprung up in response to what the government called its “Addis Ababa Integrated Regional Development Plan,” or “Master Plan.” The plan outlined the method by which the federal government would integrate the capital city, Addis Ababa, with surrounding towns in Oromia.

“When school is far, everyone is a runner.”

Concerns over the proposed expansion were raised in 2014 by farmers who feared the government’s ongoing takeover of their land would expand under the plan. Uniting under the hashtag #OromoProtests, citizens of the region organized to make their concerns known: The re-zoning plan would constitute an effective government takeover of their land, yet another blow to their autonomy and livelihood after years of ongoing repression.

In January, however, the Ethiopian government announced it would abandon the Master Plan following the deaths of an estimated 140 protesters in clashes with federal security forces. The televised government statement, which has since been removed from the state media where it was originally aired, cited a “lack of transparency” and “huge respect” for the Oromo people as reasons for the decision to scrap the widely opposed plan. But activists — and Lilesa himself — contend the plan was just one flash point in Oromos’ ongoing struggle for equal rights.

The presiding political coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), rose to power in May 1991. Before the May 2015 elections, the EPRDF, led by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, held all but one seat in the nation’s 546-seat parliament. Amid widespread claims of intimidation and suppression of media, the coalition secured a landslide victory, claiming every single seat. Many opposition leaders contend that the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front party, which represents Ethiopia’s Tigrayan minority (approximately 6% of the population), holds all the power within the ruling EPRDF coalition — and by extension, within the country. The Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, another one of the EPRDF coalition’s four parties, is viewed by many as a comparatively toothless group.

The Oromos have found an unlikely ally in the Amhara, the nation’s second-largest ethnic group. The Amhara comprise about 27% of the population; together, the groups account for about 62% of Ethiopia’s estimated 100 million people. After over a century of oscillating tensions, the two ethnic groups are coming together to protest what they say is shared repression under a Tigrayan-led government and the #AmharaProtests movementhas been rapidly gaining steam. Many people, Lilesa included, note that the groups’ unprecedented union against the EPRDF could portend “Rwanda-like” ethnic conflict in the country.

Lilesa said he has been bearing witness to ongoing discontent in Oromia since well before this round of protests. Born just a year before the EPRDF came into power, he grew up seeing the repression of his people — so helping protesters came as second nature to him.

“People are being exiled from the place I was born, so I tried to do what little I can to help; sometimes I give them my shoes or a little money,” he said. “But after I started doing that, people told me the government had become suspicious of me. Because I trained in the countryside, I feared they could come at any moment and just snatch me.”

Lilesa during the men’s marathon post-race press conference. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

It’s part of what made him take his protest to the Olympic stage, pushed by a growing sense that only international intervention would change the situation in Ethiopia for the better. Protesters and opposition forces had been agitating for so long and facing only violence in return because their pleas were not heard by international press, he insisted.

“I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I didn’t make that gesture,” he said. “I knew that the media would be watching, and the world will finally see and hear the cry of my people.”

“We just want peace, we just want equality,” Lilesa said. “That’s why people are still protesting. Even if [the government] says there is no Master Plan anymore, they are still killing us.”

Human rights organizations estimate state forces have killed over 500 protesters in the last year, with elections taking place against a backdrop of “restrictions on civil society, the media and the political opposition, including excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators, the disruption of opposition campaigns, and the harassment of election observers from the opposition.”


From the minute Lilesa crossed his wrists as he crossed the finish line in Rio, things moved quickly. He says the moments immediately following his gesture still feel like a blur of cameras and rapid-fire questions from journalists, but he remembers his fellow Ethiopian athletes’ embrace as he left the Olympic Village vividly.

“The athletes cried. They sent me off with tears,” he said. “I’m usually not the kind of person that cries, but they actually made me cry, saying goodbye.”

“The federation officials knew that they would get in trouble if they spoke with me or if they helped me,” he continued. “They gave me some signs and gestures but that was really it because they could not really do much because they presumably had concerns for their safety.”

T-shirts made for Lilesa’s welcoming ceremonyHannah Giorgis / BuzzFeed News

Within hours of his protest, a GoFundMe page to support Lilesa and his family was launched and exceeded both its initial $10,000 goal and the subsequent $40,000 goal. It has since raised a total of over $160,000, much of which has been set aside for Lilesa’s legal expenses. Oromo friends like Bayissa Gemechu, a sports agent who had just left Rio after his wife Tigist Tufa competed in the women’s marathon a week earlier, raced back to his side. By the time Gemechu arrived back in Rio to meet Lilesa, the US embassy had already heard of his case — and made the decision to allow him to apply for a special skills visa into the country from Rio instead of insisting he return to Ethiopia to do so.

Bonnie Holcomb, an American anthropologist who has been closely involved with the Oromo community since living in Oromia during the last years of Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign in the early ’70s, also played an integral role in supporting Lilesa from the US and facilitating his contact with Brazilians who would ensure his safety. Holcomb, the co-author of a book investigating Ethiopia’s political history, reached out to Brazilian friends who helped shepherd Lilesa’s visa application process.

The Brazilian couple contacted their local friends, who then worked quickly to support Lilesa, sending officials from the foreign ministry to take him to the airport and begin his temporary visa application to stay in Brazil. Fearing he would be sought by Ethiopian authorities, Lilesa had left the Olympic Village immediately. Alone in his hotel, he was terrified when the Brazilian officials knocked on his door.

But when the Brazilian officials entered the room, they greeted him with smiles instead of the violence or the detainment he’d feared — and took him for coffee. On the car ride to the airport, he called friends in the US to inform them he was safe. By the time he made it to the US embassy after securing his temporary Brazilian visa, Lilesa was surprised by his newfound celebrity among Brazilians and how excited people were to see his medal.

Fearing he would be sought by Ethiopian authorities, Lilesa had left the Olympic Village immediately.

“People were fascinated and they wanted to touch it and they wanted to look at it,” he said. “There was a moment when everybody stopped working and they were just lining up to look at the medal and that sort of made me realize that this is a big deal.”

Gemechu saw the warm reception firsthand when he walked around Rio with Lilesa: “Most of the time we were outside around the beach, and a lot of people there, they watched [him] on the TV and media, so we had fun. They said ‘Oromo!’” he recalled while raising his hands above his head to replicate the now-famous gesture. Stopping to high-five Lilesa periodically on the street, they heralded him as a champion of resistance whose symbolic act spoke to communities well beyond his own people. This support didn’t make up for being away from his wife and two young children, but it helped sustain him for the long, lonely journey ahead.

Lilesa at a press conference in Washington, DC, on Sept. 13, 2016. T.J. Kirkpatrick for BuzzFeed News

A conference at Washington, DC’s Phoenix Park Hotel on September 13 was an opportunity for Lilesa to keep attention on the issue he’d brought to the world stage at Rio and his second big hurdle after arriving in the United States. Earlier in the day he had held his first news conference outside the US Capitol, where he implored Congress members to intervene on behalf of the Ethiopian people. Congressman Chris Smith later announced the introduction of House Resolution 861, “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

Stepping up to the podium, Lilesa immediately thanked the journalists in the DC hotel’s conference room, noting that freedom of speech is not a right he takes lightly. The urgency of the protests had been suppressed by state-run Ethiopian media and largely ignored by the West — until, of course, Lilesa.

“We Oromo have not had access to you in the media,” he told journalists through an interpreter, OPride.com founder and editor Mohammed Ademo. “We have been cut off from you. We have not had a free press in our country.”

Ethiopia has come under fire for restricting journalists’ freedoms in recent years. Ahead of the May 2015 elections, government forces had tamped down on dissidents, most notably charging nine bloggers and journalists with terrorism and arresting eight of them under the guise of the 2009 anti-terrorism law (one member residing in the US was charged in absentia).


Lilesa’s first language, like many other Oromo people, is Afaan Oromo. He speaks Amharic in a soft, self-conscious cadence. Lilesa is at his most vibrant when he speaks in Afaan Oromo, especially with the runners who approached him after the press conference. They came to him with beaming smiles, ushering him into hugs to thank him for his gesture. He was visibly relieved to be alongside people who are almost family. Among them was Demssew Tsega, a marathoner who has been in the US for seven months now. Tsega also testified at the news conference announcing House Resolution 861 on Capitol Hill.

One day last December, Tsega wound up amid a crowd of peaceful protesters on his way home from training for the marathon in Sululta, a city 20 miles north of Addis Ababa. Along with four other athletes, Tsega joined the protest. When government security forces came to apprehend protesters, three runners got away — but Tsega and another teammate didn’t.

“Because I’m a runner and the security forces recognized me since they’d seen me on TV before, they were especially keen on capturing me,” he told me in Amharic in October. “They jailed me for two days and tortured me on my feet so I couldn’t run anymore.”

Lilesa with runners Ketema Amensisa and Demssew Tsega, advocate Obang Metho, and runner Bilisuma Shugi Courtesy of Andrea Barron

Upon his release, Tsega did not seek treatment for his injuries at the local hospital because it’s run by the government.

“I was afraid they would arrest me again if I went to the hospital,” he said. “Before I lived with my family in Addis Ababa, but after [my arrest and torture] I hid in the countryside.”

When the notice that Tsega had met the minimum qualification to compete in the marathon arrived, he was conflicted. With injured feet, he had no hope of racing, and it seemed all his training had been for nothing. But he took the opportunity to secure a visa and came to the United States, knowing it was his only shot at accessing treatment for his injuries and one day racing again.

“They’re still looking for me now,” he said. “[The government] still harasses my father; they took our land.”

Sitting next to Tsega at a downtown Silver Spring restaurant, fellow long distance runner Ketema Amensisa sighs. Before the government took 75% of their land, Amensisa’s family had 20 cows in Gebre Guracha, a central Ethiopian town in the North Shewa region of Oromia. Stripped of their primary means of income, the family of subsistence farmers has been struggling to survive since.

“We miss our country,” Amensisa said. “When we don’t have any other options as a people, we stand beside the government because we fear for our safety if we say otherwise.”

The two runners paused their stories intermittently to check in on Momina Aman, a teammate who arrived later in our conversation. Tsega mentioned repeatedly that he wants to take her to TASSC, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, the organization that’s been helping him access medical care for his foot, immigration support, and psychological care.

“I came to this country because Ethiopia’s government killed my father, stepmother, my sisters, and my brothers.”

“I came to this country because Ethiopia’s government killed my father, stepmother, my sisters, and my brothers,” Aman said through tears. “The rest of my brothers and I were only spared because we were in Addis Ababa.”

“We were in Addis Ababa when we got the call that our family had been killed,” she continued. “Recently another one of my brothers was beaten and left to die by government security forces.”

Aman’s brother was one of the 2 million attendees of this year’s Irreecha celebration the first weekend of October. Irreecha, the annual thanksgiving holiday that marks the shift from Ethiopia’s rainy season to the warmth and bounty of the dry months at the end of September, draws crowds of up to 4 million from across Ethiopia to the town of Bishoftu, about 25 miles southeast of Addis Ababa, to pray and sing alongside the crater lake Hora Arsadi. The festivities are filled with color and calm, an opportunity to reflect on the changing seasons and their attendant harvests.

But this year’s Irreecha took place against the backdrop of heightened police presence in Oromia. State forces encircled festivalgoers, eventually firing a mixture of tear gas and bullets into the crowd after attendees began reciting chants associated with the #OromoProtests movement that has grown in the region in the last year. Some reportsestimate up to 678 people were killed between authorities’ violence and the resultant stampede.

When reports first emerged that the festival had turned violent, Aman stayed up all night trying to call her brother. She reached him in the morning, relieved to hear he was shaken but safe.

The festival’s deadly turn was covered widely in international press, despite the Ethiopian government’s control of state-run media in the country. Questions about Ethiopia’s future as beacon of the once-promising “Africa rising” narrative surfaced again in the West, pointing not only to the massacre but also to the simple gesture that put enough attention on Ethiopia for its people’s suffering to even matter outside the continent.

Immediately after the bloodshed at Irreecha, the government declared a three-day period of mourning. One week later, it announced a six-month “state of emergency,” under which the army was deployed nationwide and access to social media and mobile internet indefinitely suspended. In three weeks, over 2,000 people were detained for participating in anti-government protests, which government officials blamed on “foreign anti-peace forces” from neighboring Eritrea and Egypt.

“They laid their actions bare,” Lilesa said of the state of emergency. “But there’s nothing new here.”

A celebration of Irreecha held in Maryland the morning after the bloodshed in Ethiopia. Hannah Giorgis / BuzzFeed News

Even amid the uncertainty of the government’s state of emergency, Lilesa remains a beacon of hope for runners like Tsega, Amensisa, and Aman — and for Oromo people around the world.

In the time between Lilesa’s protest and his arrival in the US, two more Ethiopian runners had repeated the gesture as they crossed finish lines around the world. On August 29, Ebisa Ejigu won the Quebec City Marathon and followed in Lilesa’s footsteps. On September 11 — Ethiopian New Year — Tamiru Demisse did the same as he claimed the silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter T-13 race at the Paralympics in Rio.

Even those who have not protested themselves see Lilesa’s actions as a path forward, an opportunity to rally around one another especially as Ethiopia’s government continues its crackdown. It’s an act they see as fundamentally patriotic: If he didn’t love his country, he wouldn’t want it to be better.

For Tsega, Lilesa’s action and the ensuing media attention was a matter of life and death: “I know sports and politics don’t always go together, but when situations are this urgent, it’s something you have to do even if it kills you. Leaving his children, wife, and all his possessions behind, he… I don’t even have the words. He did all that for his country, for his people.”

“I know it was hard to say that,” Amensisa added. “But after Feyisa did it, he opened up a new path for us.”

All of them are hopeful for the potential of Lilesa’s spotlight on the issue to attract more international intervention in the area — especially from the US, long a military ally of Ethiopia. In the weekend following his arrival in the US alone, there were over 60 news stories on Lilesa and the Oromo protests.

Many of them called for the US government to halt aid to Ethiopia until the totalitarian nature of security measures in the country are addressed. Some of the sanctions being sought by the community are reflected in Congressman Smith’s House Resolution 861 and the identical 21-cosponsor Senate resolution introduced in April.

But Lilesa’s impact reverberates far beyond runners’ circles, community events, and the dense Ethiopian population of the DC metro area. As conversations about athletes’ political voices continue to gain steam following Kaepernick’s silent protest of the American national anthem, Lilesa remains a lightning rod for a community divided by both politics and geography.

On Twitter, the hashtag bearing his name is most often used to share updates on news regarding the community at large. Facebook and Viber — when not being axed by the government — remain digital organizing hubs. And on Snapchat, a massively popular channel for Ethiopian and Eritrean youth held a discussion about Oromo politics earlier this month while one of its hosts wore a shirt printed with Lilesa’s name and face.

“How could I feel the same comfort I did before? How could I feel happiness?”

“BunaTime” (taken from the Amharic word for coffee) draws an average of 15,000 views per Snapchat story, and Ethiopian and Eritrean youth from around the diaspora take turns hosting it for several hours at a time. Its attendant Twitter and Instagram channels boast almost 10,000 and 37,000 followers respectively.

The Oromo-led Snapchat teach-in drew both excitement and ire from young viewers. But hosts were clear: Lilesa, and the #OromoProtests, are the future — not just for the Oromo community, but for all of Ethiopia.

And Lilesa is committed to keeping his career going, despite the complications. He has been training in Arizona since last month. The choice to head west was made partly because of the state’s altitude, and partly, Gemechu joked, because “he don’t like snow.” Lilesa had briefly considered Kenya as another training location, but fears that the Kenyan government’s close relationship with Ethiopia’s would lead to his extradition kept him from pursuing that option. He would’ve been closer to his family, but recent developments in Ethiopia reinforce his decision to stay away from the region.

“The crisis puts [runners] in a position where we can’t focus on our training,” he said. “If this continues without any change, Ethiopia may not win as many medals as it used to.”

Lilesa won’t be running in the New York City Marathon in November, but he has plans to run in both December’s Honololu Marathon and next April’s race in London. The return to the sport he loves has left him energized, but tensions flaring up back home — and his own distance — continue to sap him of energy.

“I left my country and I live in a strange country,” he said when we spoke recently. “How could I feel the same comfort I did before? How could I feel happiness?”

Lilesa photographed on September 13, 2016. T.J. Kirkpatrick for BuzzFeed News

Both his own future and that of his country feel tenuous at the moment, a heavy sense of both revolutionary excitement and dread hanging over both. Lilesa speaks to his wife and children regularly, but hasn’t seen any of them since August 17. “I don’t feel weight on myself since I did what I did, because I believed in it,” he said. “But I do worry about my family back home.”

He was careful and exacting when speaking of his 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son in hushed tones: “I don’t want to look at my children any differently from others in my country who are being killed,” Lilesa said. “They face the same fate and the same destiny like all other children in Ethiopia.”

He knows he cannot return to them until the political situation changes, but hopes now that he will one day be able to see them in the US if it doesn’t. The decision to live here for now — even and especially in exile — weighs on him, a sense of guilt pervading his words as he responds to the fact that Oromos around the world now consider him a hero.

“The one who leaves isn’t a hero,” he said recently. “Heroes are the ones who go and fight alongside the people.”

Running Magazine: Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon winner protests in support of Oromo people October 16, 2016

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VIDEO: Toronto Waterfront Half winner protests in support of Oromo people
Ethiopian Kindi Asefa won the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon on Sunday and performed a political protest as he crossed the finish line.

October 16th, 2016 by Tim Huebsch,  Running News, Running videos

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The string of protests against the Ethiopian government among Canada-based runners continued on Sunday as Kindi Asefa crossed his arms above his head at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The Toronto Olympic Club athlete won the half-marathon in 1:08:34 and made an “X” above his head– a gesture in solidarity with the Oromo people.

The Oromo protests gained international attention at the Rio Olympics when Feyisa Lilesa famously crossed the finish line in second place in the men’s marathon while performing the protest. The Oromo people cross their arms above their head to imitate being handcuffed.

VIDEO


Lilesa is currently in the United States with a special skills visa and did not return home to Ethiopia because he feared for his life.

RELATED: Quebec City Marathon winner Ebisa Ejigu replicates Olympic medallist’s political protest.

According to Human Rights Watch, as many as 500 people have been killed in the protests between November 2015 and June 2016. The protests are occurring because the Ethiopian government is extending the capital city’s municipal boundary which is forcing the Oromo people away from their homes.

The boundary is extending into Oromia, home to much of the country’s Oromo people. The Oromo people are the largest ethnicity in the Horn of Africa. The Oromo people, according to BBC News, claim that the government is oppressive and that they have been marginalized.

After Lilesa’s political protest at the Olympics, Ebisa Ejigu made the gesture at the Quebec City Marathon. Soon after, Hajin Tola made an “X” with his arms at the CanKen 5K road race in Mississauga, Ont. Asefa, along with Tola and Ejigu, all train with the Toronto Olympic Club.

RELATED: Winner of Mississauga CanKen 5K race protests in support of Ethiopia’s Oromo people.

On Sunday, Asefa won by 10 seconds over Matthew McNeil. Erin McClure was the top woman in 1:20:40.


 

Lelisa’s Message: #OromoProtests October 13, 2016

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Lelisa’s Message

A wave of protest in Ethiopia highlights the country’s history of exploitation and dispossession.

Geeska Afrika


This summer, when marathon runner Feyisa Lelisacrossed the Rio finish line with his hands crossed above his head, he expressed his solidarity with a protest movement in Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state.

The marathoner’s gesture comes from a nonviolent resistance movement that has organized demonstrations across Oromia — which includes the capital city, Addis Ababa — for the eight months leading up to the Rio Olympics. It also mourns the more than eight hundred Oromo citizens murdered by government security forces.

With a simple gesture, Lelisa highlighted the reality of life under a brutal dictatorship, where a few oligarchs have done well at the expense of the majority, who suffer from famine, rampant unemployment, land confiscation, personal insecurity, and the loss of basic human rights.

The Trigger

The Oromo protests began two years ago, when the Ethiopian government — led by the Tigrayan-majorityEthiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF) — unveiled its urban master plan, called the Integrated Development Plan for Ethiopian Renaissance.

The plan designated a total area of 1.1 million hectares of land — extending in a forty-to-one-hundred-kilometer radius around Addis Ababa — part of the planning region. This area included seventeen rural districts and three dozen cities in the Oromia regional state. In effect, the plan would increase Addis Ababa’s size twenty-fold.

When the plan was presented to the Oromia state for approval in February 2014, the regional government members opposed it, arguing that it violated the principle of federalism, the human rights provisions, and the transparency clause of the Ethiopian constitution. That April, students took to the streets decrying the planned displacement of Oromo farmers and residents on the affected land. Above all, the protesters demanded respect for the autonomy of the Oromia regional government in deciding local issues, including land transfers.

Government security forces responded by firing live ammunition and violently beating peaceful protesters. They killed seventy-eight, injured hundreds, and sent thousands to concentration camps in the humid Afar region. The action was so egregious that the protests garnered international attention.

The government has strongly denied any wrongdoing, even as images of dead bodies and injured protesters were widely broadcast across social media. The demonstrations subsided without resolving the problem that incited them in the first place — but not for long.

In the May 2015 national elections, the EPRDF claimed 100 percent of the country’s parliamentary seats. It interpreted its alleged victory as a mandate to accelerate development projects, including the Integrated Development Plan for Ethiopian Renaissance.

In November 2015, government officials arrived in Ginchi, a small town west of Addis Ababa, to lease out a school playground and sacred forest area to an investor. Students and residents protested, and the movement quickly spread to all corners of Oromia. What started as resistance to land seizure quickly transformed into a sustained opposition to the governing party’s stranglehold on the political landscape, to ethnic discrimination in allocating national resources, and to the incessant use of violence to resolve political differences.

Historical Injustice

The issue of land founds the protests’ demands. In Ethiopia, land serves multiple purposes. For smallholder farmers, land marks their identity, organizes their social lives, and provides their means of survival as individuals and as members of a household and a kin group. For elites, land supports the state machinery and serves as an instrument of social control.

The struggle for political power and economic control often takes the form of struggle for land control. Indeed, throughout Ethiopian history, whoever controlled land also controlled the economic base and the infrastructure of domination.

In the nineteenth century, the southward march of imperial Ethiopia in search of arable land and natural export commodities culminated in the conquest of several independent Oromo states and other entities. In the 1880s, Emperor Menelik II annexed their territories and assigned conquering soldiers as administrators. The new rulers and their retinues drew no salaries, instead living off the land they confiscated and the evicted tenants’ labor.

Oromo farmers would lose more land for the next century. After the end of Italian occupation in 1941, Emperor Haile Selassie transferred large tracts to private holders, including members of the royal family and the nobility, individuals with connections to the imperial court, and loyalists who claimed to have fought the fascists.

At the same time, the imperial regime promoted private investments to develop commercial agriculture. Well-connected officials acquired thousands of hectares to grow coffee for export. Foreign firms — such as the Dutch HVA and the British Mitchell Cotts — were given land to grow sugar and cotton in the fertile southern and southwestern areas. The evicted Oromo farmers became day laborers for the commercial companies or seasonal laborers for the new landlords. Many migrated to towns in search of opportunities.

In 1974, this unresolved issue occasioned the imperial government’s collapse. In February 1975, the Derg, the military junta that took power, nationalized rural land, allowing farmers equal access and use rights, prohibiting private ownership, and outlawing hired farm labor. To retain their rights, farmers had to meet numerous demands including joining farmer-operated cooperatives and peasant communes.

In time, the Derg became the sole landlord, turning the cooperatives into its extractive arm and instrument of political control. The regime’s unending demand for surtaxes, fees, various charges, and recruits for the army rendered the gains of the revolution immaterial to the lives of the peasants.

Land to the Investor

The Derg fell in 1991 after almost two decades of struggle. The EPRDF, which largely consists of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), came to power. Its leaders argued that the land-ownership prohibition protected farmers against rapacious capitalist land-grabbers and affirmed state ownership in the 1995 constitution and several land administration proclamations.

This started to shift in 2002 when the late prime minister Meles Zenawi launched an antipoverty campaign. The program rested on increasing productivity in agriculture, which justified allocating land to private interests. At first, the government transferred small plots of land to domestic and foreign capitalists to grow flowers for export, but the practice grew: soon vast agricultural lands in Oromia and other states were being leased out.

In 2005, the EPRDF won highly controversial national elections. In the aftermath, the party leader declared that the country needed an activist government to ensure accelerated, sustained, and broad-based growth. In a surprise about-face, the land law that was supposed to protect rural owner-operators against wealthy capitalists instead facilitated land transfers to investors. The federal government replaced the law that recognized the regional states’ authority over land administration with one that granted that authority to the federal government. The regional states were forced to change their laws to conform to the federal proclamation.

Having passed the unconstitutional measure, the government opened farmlands for foreign and domestic capital owners with generous terms, minimum restrictions, and token capital requirements. Terry Allen sums up: “At a price ranging from cheap to stolen, investors lease vast tracts for as long as ninety-nine years and for as little as forty cents per acre per year.”

When the lease wasn’t cheap enough, corruption helped. One investor noted, “You get a bottle of Johnnie Walker, kneel down, clap three times, and make your offer of Johnnie Walker Whiskey.”

Investors flocked in. By 2011, about 3.6 million hectares of land had been awarded to foreign capitalists, and 4 million hectares more were still available.

To be sure, the federal government wasn’t supposed to get in the business of redistributing land. Under the cover of development, it used land with a view to short-term political goals rather than long-term economic processes. As a result, it fueled unbridled corruption that dispossessed millions and relegated them to destitution. Among the Oromo in particular, this meant not only lost property but also a breakdown in traditional social organization.

In 2015, these concerns converged around the Integrated Development Master Plan. Addis Ababa was originally built on the stolen ancestral land of the Oromo. As the city expanded, the surrounding people were evicted, and new settlers took over, changing the area’s demographic composition.

The new development plan evoked the Oromo’s bitter experiences of the predatory relationship between Addis Ababa and the surrounding area. The scale of the proposed plan and its potential to displace millions touched off the massive resistance that came to be known as the Oromo protests.

State Capture

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front — which played a central role in toppling the Derg in 1991 and now constitutes the major part of the EPRDF — hails from the northern part of Ethiopia. They initially argued that coercion, forced cultural assimilation, and political centralization cannot succeed as a state-building strategy.

To reconstruct the collapsed state, they devised a new constitution that instituted a federal arrangement among newly demarcated ethnic-based regional states. The approach recognized the unconditional right of every nationality in the country to self-determination, including secession. It was a novel response to the problem of national integration in light of the failure of past regimes.

However, TPLF leaders were never committed to either constitutional rule or their unique federal structure: neither would aid their political or economic interests. From the start of their rule, party leaders understood that the survival of Tigray depended on people migrating south and wealth migrating north. To enact this, the party had to dominate the political center. As John Young points out, the TPLF “did not seriously entertain the idea of building alliances with existing southern parties and instead drove them largely out of existence.”

After 1991, the TPLF-led coalition deployed various justifications for the one-party rule it envisaged, but never succeeded. It finally decided to simply make the institutions of the state subservient to the political will of a party. Elections were conducted, but only to confirm the ruling party in power and to ensure that its development programs were not disrupted by short electoral cycles.

The TPLF-dominated parliament passed draconian laws to consolidate its hold on power.

One measure, approved by parliament in July 2008, added to the numerous restrictions placed on the Ethiopian press. For example, it made journalists and editors potential accomplices in acts of terrorism if they published statements that the government classified as an act of sedition.

In January 2009, a civil society organizations law prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations from engaging in any human rights or governance work, rendering most independent human rights work virtually impossible and making all NGO work that the government declared illegal punishable as a criminal offense.

An antiterrorism law passed in July 2009 granted broad powers to the police and enacted harsh criminal penalties for political protests and nonviolent dissent. Together, the laws gave absolute power to the government to accuse, convict, and punish anyone by executive order. As the result, thousands of journalists, human rights advocates, and political dissidents have been sent to infamous federal prisons in the outskirts of the capital. They languish there without trials or visitation rights, at the mercy of prison guards.

As a direct consequence, human rights violations became more flagrant. International rights groups and other organizations have documented the government’s extrajudicial executions of political opponents, its degrading treatment of prisoners, and its rejection of court orders to free dissidents. As a former defense minister of the incumbent regime noted, the vast majority of the inmates at one of the most notorious prisons belong to the Oromo ethnic group.

Once the Tigrayan-majority party fully captured the state, economic benefits began to flow to political and military elites in exchange for loyalty. Millionaires emerged overnight, and current and former officials now own massive skyscrapers. Apart from these nouveaux riches, the party itself owns businesses that amount to two-thirds of the economy. Meanwhile, ordinary citizens suffer from double-digit unemployment, insufficient housing, rising inflation, and economic insecurity.

State capture requires full control of the coercive apparatus. After theDerg’s national military force was dismantled, TPLF commanders and political commissars created a new non-political military to support the new democratic state rather than to act as the ruling party’s private army.

They organized a new Ethiopian Defense Force, which was smaller in size and broader in its rank-and-file’s ethnic composition. But the military command-and-control structure remained under TPLF control: more than 95 percent of the general staff and commanders come from Tigray. While the military is ostensibly apolitical, it remains highly connected to the political apparatus.

The military is also deeply involved in the private sector. Active and retired military officers own their own businesses. Furthermore, the EPRDF government has increased the military’s stake in the economy through the Metal and Engineering Corporation (MetEC).

Created in 2010, MetEC is supposed to ensure technology transfer across the country. According to its establishing proclamation, the company is directly accountable to the prime minister and operated by the ministry of defense. It participates in all sectors of the economy — manufacturing, construction, energy, and transportation — and produces weapons for the country’s defense forces, including armored vehicles, explosives, ammunition, big guns, light weapons, and personal weapons. The military has become an economically powerful actor.

The TPLF coalition built a political system that has no space for dissenting voices. The architecture of power relations that was meant to ensure the interest of a minority group has now produced an unbridgeable political chasm that is growing thanks to economic inequality, political instability, and personal insecurity. The shortsighted arrangement designed to ensure minority rule in perpetuity has now come back in the TPLF’s face like a boomerang.

Impending Danger

John Markakis concluded his latest book, Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers, with a warning for the EPRDF:

At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the incumbent regime in Addis Ababa is engaged in the same battles that exhausted its predecessors, impoverished the country, and blasted peoples’ hopes for peace, democracy, and an escape from dire poverty.

Indeed, previous governments were brought down because of their refusal to share power with the country’s diverse constituencies and interest groups.

To keep power, the incumbents have built a politically connected, heavily armed, and economically powerful military to protect its monopoly on political and economic power. Because the protesters threaten the party’s and its high-ranking officials’ interests, the military has used force with impunity, killing hundreds of innocent protesters who simply demand respect for their constitutionally guaranteed rights. But force will breed more instability and demand the use of more force.

The military has not succeeded in putting down the protests, and it’s hard to say whether they will.

But Ethiopia’s history shows that when structures fail, humans are capable of unimaginable cruelty not just for survival but in defense of their insatiable desire for comfort. Feyisa Lelissa gave the world fair warning.

Cultural Survival: Human Rights of Ethiopia’s Oromo People Brought to Light in Rio September 25, 2016

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Human Rights of Ethiopia’s Oromo People Brought to Light in Rio

Cultural Survival, 23 September 2016


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Photo courtesy of: ctj71081/ Flickr


On August 21st, in Brazil, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa was awarded the silver medal for the Men’s Marathon in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Although this was perhaps one of the greatest sporting achievements of his life, this day will forever be remembered for the political protest he made just before the finish line.  While in the global spotlight,  Lilesa raised his hands above his head in an ‘X’ formation to stand in solidarity with the Oromo people of Ethiopia, who have suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

Lilesa is one of the thousands fighting for the rights of the Oromo people. In August 2016, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, called on Ethiopia to allow UN international observers to investigate the excessive use of force by the government’s security forces against peaceful protesters in the Oromo and Amhara regions of the country. There is a strong need for organized international pressure on the Ethiopian government. A credible and independent investigation into this country’s Human Rights offences is long overdue. This will be a huge and very welcome step for the people and the country as a whole.

More on Oromo Abuses Here

Human rights abuses have been prevalent throughout Ethiopia’s history, but for the last nine months, protests have erupted in Oromiya, the homeland of Ethiopia’s largest but historically marginalized ethnic group, the Oromo, of which Feyisa Lilesa belongs. The protests are have now spread north, to a second region, the Amhara.

Although these protesters from Oromo and Amhara have different backgrounds, cultures, and complaints, they share a growing fear and frustration with the rule of a third, minority ethnic group — the Tigrayans. As NPR reported, the Tigrayan elite has a “cartel-like grip on the government, military and the fast-growing economy.”  The Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) forcefully rose to power after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then, there have been numerous human rights violations, with examples like the 2001 killing of forty Addis Ababa university students for simply demanding the academic freedom to publish a student newspaper, to the Killing of 200 Oromo in 2014, according to the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE).

Related: Learn more about the TPLF in Ethiopia here.

The right of peaceful assembly is protected in Ethiopian and International law. Ethiopia’s Constitution states “everyone shall have the freedom, in association with others, to peaceably assemble without arms, engage in public demonstration and the right to petition.” But, after Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 125 witnesses, victims, and government officials, a significant pattern of human rights violations during peaceful Oromo protests was revealed. Examples from late 2015 when the decision of authorities in Ginchi to clear a forest for an investment project triggered protests in at least 400 different locations across all the 17 zones in Oromia, until May 2016, and even into current times, prove there have been massive human rights violations. Numerous reports exposed that in many locations security forces have gone at night, arresting innocent and unsuspecting members of the community such as students and those accommodating students in their homes. Security forces also strategically target those seen as “influential members of the Oromo community, such as musicians, teachers, opposition members and others thought to have the ability to mobilize the community for further protests.” Even more shocking, is that many of those arrested and detained by the security forces were children of eighteen years and younger. Security forces have also been reported to open fire on, and kill peaceful protesters, as well as torture or beat many of the detained Oromo. Many of the females detained have reportedly been raped by security force personnel, while almost none of the detainees have had access to legal counsel, adequate food, or their family members.

An unnamed student said in an interview with HRW on January of 2016, said his friend “was shot in the stomach [at the protest], his intestines were coming out, he said, ‘Please brother, tie my [wound] with your clothes.’ I was scared, I froze and then tried to do that but I was grabbed and arrested by the federal police. Jamal died. They arrested me and took me to Bedeno police station.”

With ongoing events such as these, the people of Ethiopia have appeared to have reached their limit; the brutal force being used by the regime to deter an uprising is starting to backfire, creating new alliances between previously divided groups of Ethiopians such as the Oromo and the Amhara. The regime, struggling to find ways to retain domination, resorts to solutions like the exploitation of Ethiopian resources, land, and opportunities; but this too, is becoming a regime failure.

A press release from The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)notes, this is a regime, accustomed to using tools like manipulation to divide the people by ethnicity or other differences, furthering ethnic hatred, alienation and isolation, leaving a niche for the regime to squeeze into. It has allowed them to repeatedly commit fatal human rights atrocities against these groups with no fear of a united retaliation; but this is suddenly changing. These methods of turning selected ethnic groups against one another, is being scrutinized by Ethiopians; and previously rival groups are now unifying to challenge it. As SMNE said, “more killing, wounding and use of violence against unarmed civilians on the part of the regime’s security forces are strengthening, not weakening, the movement of the people,” but the movement is just beginning.

Ethiopia’s government has rejected the call for UN intervention and promised to launch its own investigation according to Al Jazeera. With the TPLF now facing a crack in the current power structure of the country,  the government’s resistance to UN intervention was to be expected. The fearful reality is, however, that the TPLF, power hungry, and corrupt, will continue to use illegal force in an attempt to maintain control. But this lack of legal and transparent investigation of human rights violations in Ethiopia strongly implies that the Ethiopian government’s investigation of the ongoing human rights crisis will not be independent, impartial and transparent, and according to Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. “It is time to step up efforts for an international and independent investigation in Ethiopia.”
For years the government has worked to project a “forward thinking, democratic, and economically progressive image” of Ethiopia to outsiders, while on the inside, achieving the total opposite. For example, laws such as the Charities and Societies Proclamation law (CSO) which is meant to appear as an advocacy network, actually has criminalized human rights and other kinds of advocacy work in Ethiopia, making an equal and  civil society impossible to maintain in Ethiopia. This makes the presence of an independent organization like the UN crucial for the protection of the Oromo people, who are practically inhibited from seeking protection themselves.

According to the Press Release from SMNE, “meaningful democratic reforms, restorative justice, and reconciliation for all the people of Ethiopia, including the current ruling party,” are the essential measures which need to be enacted if Ethiopia is to find peace and avoid total disaster. History shows that the government will not cooperate without pressure from key donor nations such as the the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Norway, Sweden etc., as well as from major international human rights organizations, to provide leverage critical in obtaining substantial changes for the rights of the Oromo people and governmental structure of Ethiopia as a whole.


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Oromia: Athletic Nation World Report: Athlete Hajin Tola: Winner of Mississauga CanKen 5K race protests in support of Ethiopia’s Oromo people September 20, 2016

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Winner of Mississauga CanKen 5K race protests in support of Ethiopia’s Oromo people.
Ethiopia’s Hajin Tola won the inaugural CanKen 5K road race in Mississauga, Ont. on Sunday and performed a political protest by crossing his wrists to form an “X.” (Photo: Happy Films Photography.)


 

The inaugural CanKen 5K road race was held on Sunday in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada in an effort to strengthen Kenya-Canada relations through sport, business and community. The 5K was dominated by the Toronto Olympic Club as the event attracted some of southern Ontario’s top talent featuring Kenyan and Ethiopian teams.
At the front of the pack, Ethiopian Hajin Tola won in 14:45 and performed a political gesture crossing his wrists above his head in an “X,” done in solidarity with the Oromo people in his home country. The protest is the fourth such notable act by an Ethiopian at a race in the past month.

How the protests got started
Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa was the first to make headlines in August when he performed the protest in Rio in the men’s marathon. He feared for his life following the race as the protest was directed at the Ethiopian government.

RELATED: Quebec City Marathon winner Ebisa Ejigu replicates Olympic medallist’s political protest.

The protests are being done in response to the government’s displacing of Oromo people outside of Addis Ababa as the municipal boundary of the capital city is extended into neighbouring areas.

Why the “x” gesture?
The anti-government protest is meant to signify being handcuffed at the wrists. The Oromo people, with much of the population living in an area named Oromia, are the largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. As many as 500 people have been killed in the protests between November 2015 and June as reported by Human Rights Watch.

RELATED: Paralympic T13 1,500m silver medallist protests Ethiopian government.

Lilesa, the Olympic marathon silver medallist, performed the protest in Rio and said after the race that “If I go back to Ethiopia, I will be killed.” He has since arrived in the United States on a special skills visa and has not returned to East Africa though his family remains in Ethiopia. A GoFundMe page in his name has raised more than US$160,000 for travel and living costs.

RELATED: Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa lands in the U.S. after staging political protest in Rio.

Also in Sunday’s race was Ebisa Ejigu who won the Quebec City Marathon at the end of August and also protested against the Ethiopian government. Ejigu finished fourth on Sunday in 15:04.

At the Mississauga race, the first three positions were awarded cash prizes of $1,500, $750 and $500 in both the men’s and women’s categories. Jane Murage was the women’s race winner in 17:16. There were a number of notable figures on hand for the inaugural event including Deputy Kenya High Commissioner to Canada Ambassador Jane Onsongo.

The 1K kids dash encouraged the next generation of runners to participate with a medal being awarded to all participants and trophies going to the top three finishers.

The Toronto Olympic Club won the team trophy for fastest average time and Team Umoja won the largest turnout trophy. Team Umoja is mainly drawn from Kenyans living in Canada. Full results can be found here.

Star Tribune: Oromo Olympian draws big crowd at his Minneapolis appearance September 19, 2016

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Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1

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Fayyisaa’s welcoming moment at Minneapolis Convention center.


Kun Simannaa Fayyisaa Leellisaaf hawaasti Oromoo Minisootaatiin, Fulbaana 18, 2016.
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Star Tribune: Oromo Olympian draws big crowd at his Minneapolis appearance

Marathon silver medalist seen as a hero for his running as well as his political statement.
oromo-olympian-fayyisaa-leellisaa-feyisa-lilesa-draws-big-crowd-at-his-minneapolis-appearance-18-september-2016

TOM WALLACE, STAR TRIBUNE: Oromo (Ethiopian) Olympian Feyisa Lilesa entered the Minneapolis Convention Center Sunday, Sept 18, 2016 to a crowd of about 1000 well wishers. He won the silver medal in the 2016 Games in Rio and crossed the finish line with his arms crossed in an X, symbolizing the plight of the Oromo in Ethiopia.


Lilesa, 26, became a hero to his people and brought global attention to the plight of the Oromo in Ethiopia when he crossed his arms to form the letter X above his head as he crossed the finish line at the Rio Games.

He did the same as he entered the auditorium Sunday and the crowd erupted in cheers.

The Oromo Community of Minnesota said more than 100 Oromo people were killed in Ethiopia in August alone while peacefully protesting the government’s persecution of the ethnic group.

Lilesa, who faces jail if he returns home, has been granted a special skills visa to the United States so he can train and compete. His wife, 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter remain in Ethiopia.

His visit to Minneapolis was sponsored by the Oromo Community of Minnesota, headquartered in St. Paul. The group estimates that up to 40,000 Oromo people are living in Minnesota, but the state demographer’s office puts that number closer to 8,500.


Related:-

 

CNN Connect the World: Marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa tells us why it was so important to highlight his people’s suffering at the Rio 2016 Olympics and #OromoProtests September 17, 2016

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Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa at press conference. p1

CNN Connect the World: Marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa tells us why it was so important to highlight his people’s suffering at the Rio 2016 Olympics and #OromoProtests

CNN Connect the World: Marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa tells us why it was so important to highlight his people’s suffering at the Rio 2016 Olympics and #OromoProtests

 

 

 

RUNNING INTO TROUBLE: A life of discrimination and fear led an Ethiopian marathoner to protest on the world stage September 17, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomistrio-paralympiccongressman-smith-and-athlete-feyissa-lelisa-at-capitol-hill-oromoprotests

At night, Feyisa Lilesa and his friends hid in the farms to evade the security forces who were arresting people across the country. As a 15-year-old growing up in Oromia region, Lilesa says he was always aware that many of his fellow citizens didn’t approve of the government’s treatment. But the moment of awakening for…

via A life of discrimination and fear led an Ethiopian marathoner to protest on the world stage — Quartz

VOA: Congressman Smith and Athlete Feyissa Lelisa at Capitol Hill. #OromoProtests September 13, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7

 

Press Conference to announce the introduction of a House Resolution “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.” Oromo Olympic marathon runner who won silver in Rio, Feyisa Lelisa was invited to this event to make a remark and meet with U.S. Representatives.

 

congressman-smith-and-athlete-feyissa-lelisa-at-capitol-hill-oromoprotests

Oromo Ethiopian diaspora community optimistic about human rights bill

Several dozen members of the Oromo Ethiopian diaspora community expressed support for recently introduced legislation aimed at curbing human rights abuses in that country during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Click here to read more.


CNS News: Rep. Smith on Ethiopia Rights Abuses: ‘Abomination When You Torture Your Own Citizens,’ click  here to read more.


Related, Media reporting Fayyisaa Leellisaa:-

Afk Insider: 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Ethiopian Marathon Runner Feyisa Lilesa, click here to read. 

 

Washington Post: Olympian Feyisa Lilesa: From Rio to America, I will keep fighting Ethiopia’s oppression, click here to read.

CNN: Olympic runner Feyisa Lilesa: ‘I will be killed if I go back to Ethiopia’, click here to read.

Al Jazeera: Feyisa Lilesa, who won silver for Ethiopia at Olympic Games in Rio, wants “superiority of one ethnic group to end”, click here to read.

Fox Sports: Ethiopian marathoner remains in US on visa after protest


QUARTZ Africa: SYMBOL OF RESISTANCE:Defiant marathoner Feyisa Lilesa has taken Ethiopia’s protests to the United States


The Guardian: Feyisa Lilesa: being an athlete allowed me to be the voice of my people


Mail Online: Olympic runner yearns for peace, fears bloodletting in Ethiopia


Foreign Policy

Tesfa News


 


WBEZ Radio: Wordview: Ethiopian Olympic Runner Protests for Oromo August 28, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Fayyisaa lalisaa Oromo national hero, After received his Rio 2016 Olympic medal, 21 August 2016Fayyisaa lalisaa Oromo national hero, at  Rio 2016 Olympicmarathon in the podium, finishing line in #OromoProtests as winning theOlympic  medal, 21 August 2016

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7

Click here to Listen to WBEZ Radio:  The Olympic Runner Protests for Oromo

As Feyisa Lilesa crossed the finish line to win the silver medal in Rio, he crossed his raised arms in an act of defiance against the Ethiopian government’s treatment of the Oromo people. We talk about Lilesa’s protest with Oromo activist, Seenaa Jimjimo.

The African Sports Federation (ASF): Feyisa Lilesa Heroic Race: ASF honoured the Olympic hero and named its 5k race ‘the Feyisa Lilesa Heroic Run’ August 28, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Africa Sports Federation

Fayyisaa lalisaa Oromo national hero, at  Rio 2016 Olympicmarathon in the podium, finishing line in #OromoProtests as winning theOlympic  medal, 21 August 2016Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1


East Africa has produced many great mid and long distance runners that have dominated for decades. Feyisa Lilesa became the first athlete to speak up against his oppressive government to show the world the injustice imprisonment and killings of the innocent Oromo people in Ethiopia.

The African Sports Federation (ASF) is honoring the determination, courage and the act of bravery by Feyisa Lilesa which took place in the Rio Olympics 2016. As he was crossing the finish line of the Men’s Marathon, winning his silver medal he raised his arms over his head, wrists crossed in gesture of solidarity with protestors against the killings of the Oromo people in his home country of Ethiopia. Beyond that he explained he was protesting for people everywhere who have no freedom. That defining moment at the finish line will forever live on as a gesture that defended human dignity on one of the biggest stages in the world.

ASF second annual 5k race will be named after Feyisa Lilesa, the Feyisa Lilesa Heroic Run. Not only do we want to display our gratitude to Lilesa but we also want to encourage other athletes to stand up for what they believe in.

The Feyisa Lilesa Heroic Race will take place during the championship game of the 2016 Seattle African Cup presented by African Sports Federation. The ASF would like to extend our invitation to all people out there to celebrate this heroic act.

August 28th, 2016.
Sunday 5pm Foster High School
4242 S 144thSt
Tukwila WA 98168

www.facebook.com/FeyisaLilesaHeroicRace

NPR: Kojo Nnamni Show: Olympic Marathon medalist faces persecution in Ethiopia- And he is not one August 28, 2016

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Olympic Marathon Medalist Faces Persecution In Ethiopia –And He’s Not The Only One

 

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7

 

In recent years, Ethiopia has seen nationwide protests sparked by land rights issues and tension between the Oromos, its largest ethnic group, and the country’s government and ruling classes. While many in D.C.’s local Ethiopian diaspora have been following the unrest, a recent act of protest at the 2016 Rio Olympic marathon finish line brought the issue to an international stage. We talk with an Ethiopian blogger living in exile in the D.C. region and a U.S. journalist who faced challenges reporting from Ethiopia about the media landscape in the country and how censorship there affects perspectives in communities around the world, including those in Washington.

Guests

  • Soliyana Shimeles founding member, Zone9 bloggers; human rights expert, Ethiopia Human Rights Project
  • Fred de Sam Lazaro Correspondent, PBS NewsHour; Executive Director, Undertold Stories Project

 

 

The Irish Times: The Question: Can the Olympics ever be apolitical? August 27, 2016

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OromianEconomistOromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7


The Question: Can the Olympics ever be apolitical?

Feyisa Lilesa’s solidarity sign to Ethopians is the latest political act at a games


 

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1

Feyisa Lilesa: the marathon runner’s gesture in Rio recalled the Black Power raised fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico in 1968.


On the final day of the Rio Olympics, as the Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed the finishing line in second place, he raised his arms above his head and crossed his wrists in an X.

The simple gesture was a highly political act, a sign of solidarity with the Oromo protests that have convulsed Ethiopia in recent months. The runner is from the Oromia region, where protests about land rights have mushroomed in to a larger civil-rights movement. This has prompted a ruthless government crackdown, leaving hundreds of unarmed protesters dead.

The crossed-wrists gesture has become a symbol of defiance.

As well as raising the international profile of the Oromo protests, the gesture has changed Lilesa’s life: he says he cannot safely return home, despite government assurances to the contrary, and has remained in Brazil as he seeks asylum elsewhere.

As well as raising the international profile of the Oromo protests, the gesture has changed Lilesa’s life: he says he cannot safely return home, despite government assurances to the contrary, and has remained in Brazil as he seeks asylum elsewhere.

Like Smith and Carlos before him, Lilesa has been criticised for “politicising” the games, which like to think of themselves as an apolitical sphere of human co-operation and goodwill. Indeed, the International Olympic Committee’s rule 50 imposes conditions on host nations prohibiting political signs and demonstrations.

After a number of peaceful protesters were ejected from arenas, a Brazilian judge ruled that the conditions were in violation of the Brazilian constitution. The organisers appealed the ruling.

Controlling which platforms can and cannot be used for political messages is a privilege of the powerful, of course. For Lilesa the moment he crossed the finishing line with the world watching is not merely the only platform he has but also by far the largest platform the Oromo people have.

Lilesa may have discomfited the IOC and put himself in danger, but in doing so he reclaimed part of that elusive Olympic spirit.


Watch Related in Video:-


 

DW: Sports: My Picture of the Week – Symbol of protest in Rio. #OromoProtests August 27, 2016

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Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1

After crossing the finishing line in Rio Olympics, the Ethiopian marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his hands over his head. #DWMyPic takes a look at this symbol of anti-government protest in Ethiopia. DW Journalist Merga Yonas Bula says that silver medalist Feyisa has risked his life and family by making this gesture of solidarity with the Oromo Protests. Click here for more ‘My Picture of the Week – Symbol of protest in Rio’ at DW.

UNPO: Feyisa Lilesa: From Olympian to Symbol of Proud Resistance for Entire Community. #OromoProtests August 26, 2016

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Feyisa Lilesa: From Olympian to Symbol of Proud Resistance for Entire Community

Feyisa Lelisa Rio Olympian and world icon of #OromoProtestsOromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon p1

In the midst of celebrating one of the chief successes of his athletics career, a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Feyisa Lilesa symbolised the tremendous sufferance of his people, the Oromo by crossing his arms over his head in a gesture of protest. In the following days, his gesture has reverberated around the globe making headlines in many countries as one of the images of the 2016 Olympic Games. While the fate of Lilesa remains unknown as the outcome of the act of protest moves on, the gesture of solidarity has given reasons of hope to many and definitely helped raise awareness of the struggle of his people.

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), which for several years has been advocating for the Oromo and other ethnic groups oppressed by the Ethiopian regime, praises Mr Lelisa for his brave gesture and hopes that it will help convince the international community to take a bolder stand on the issue.

Following his gesture, the athlete might face problems if he goes back to Ethiopia, where the authorities have been violently repressing protests for months. The protests began several months ago as peaceful demonstrations regarding development plans, before the government’s harsh and ongoing response led to the death of several people. Many in Oromia now live in fear, and gestures like the one Lilesa made are essential symbols of resistance and solidarity.

During the protests, the government had blocked internet service and scrambled social media apps to stop people from collaborating or expressing dissent. She said Lilesa’s feat exemplifies how fearful a lot of the Ethiopian diaspora is to speak out on this subject.

Lilesa’s silent statement while crossing the finish line in Rio instantly reverberated worldwide. Rule 50 of the Olympic charter bans political displays or protests and the IOC have confirmed that they are gathering information to better understand the case. Ethiopia’s government has said he will be welcomed as a hero for winning a medal, but state media is not showing photos of him crossing the line. Ethiopian state-owned television station EBC Channel 3 covered the race live, including the finish, but did not repeat the clip in subsequent bulletins – focussing instead on the winner, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.

Information Minister Getachew Reda told the BBC the government had no reason to arrest him and it respected his political opinion. He also said none of Mr Feyisa’s relatives had been jailed over the Oromo protests.

Lilesa’s agent Federico Rosa stated that the runner would not be returning home after staging his protest, despite Ethiopian government assurances he would not face any problems if he went back.

A crowd-funding campaign to help Feyisa Lilesa seek asylum, has raised more than $136,000 (as of time written), to the surprise of its California-based organizer, who had initially set a target of $10,000, exceeding it within an hour.

“Among his compatriots, including those in the diaspora, Lilesa’s protest was welcomed with tears of joy,” said Mohammed Ademo, the founder and editor of OPride.com, a website that aggregates Oromo news. “A hero was born out of relative obscurity. […] I have no doubt that it will be remembered as a watershed moment in the history of Oromo people.”

Ethnic Oromo athletes have often been erased from Ethiopian lore, yet they were the first black Africans to win Olympic gold, Ademo said. Abebe Bikila did so in the 1960s while running barefoot and Derartu Tulu followed in the 1992 and 2000 Olympics. Yet, behind the scenes, these same athletes faced implicit and explicit biases. For example few Oromo athletes spoke Amharic, the language of power in Ethiopia, but Oromo translators rarely accompanied them.

“In the context of this long and tortuous history, Lilesa’s protest was revolutionary. Beyond the politics within the Ethiopian Olympics federation, his gesture brought much-needed attention to escalating human rights abuses in Ethiopia,” Ademo said.

You may find below a list to some of the news sources that covered the story:

BBC: Ethiopian “runner” gets asylum donations

Guardian: Feyisa Lilesa fails to return to Ethiopia after Olympics Protest

SB Nation: Olympian stood up to Ethiopia and became a national hero

Mashable: Crowdfunding campaign for Olympics “hero” passes $100K

LA Times: Silver medallist shows solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia

It is time to report the truth about Ethiopia! August 24, 2016

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time

Ever since the great Ethiopian Athlete Feyissa Lelisa crossed his hand in solidarity of Oromo Protests and highlighted his governments human rights violation of Oromos, Amharas and other ethnic groups. We read and saw a lot of commentaries and stories about his courageous act. Then we heard from Western media outlets how Ethiopian government spokesman Getachew Reda gave them his word that if Lelisa return, he will be treated as a hero. This might be seen as a positive and good move by the government of Ethiopia but only gullible journalists or intentional overlooks will believe this as even close to the truth.

Almost most of the people who lived in Ethiopia under the current government or was once lived and emigrated from the country know how this will play if he returns. If he return, yes the government will celebrate him in public, heck they might even put him in…

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The Guardian: Olympic medallist Feyisa Lilesa’s gesture was a plea for justice for his people August 24, 2016

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Ethiopia’s Oromo people are systematically targeted and oppressed by its ruling regime. The athlete’s crossed arms protest shouldn’t be ignored

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa on the Guardian. #OrompProtests global icon
‘At risk to his life, and at the sacrifice of his career, Feyisa Lilesa expressed at the Olympics the collective grievances and institutional discrimination his people suffer in the Oromia region.’ Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

When the Ethiopian Olympic marathon medallist Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms at the finish line, the world asked what the symbol stood for. Little is known about the historical marginalisation and collective persecution of Lilesa’s people, the Oromo of north-east Africa.

Almost all Ethiopian runners come from the Oromia region; but the Ethiopian athletics federation is highly scornful of their Oromo identity. Perhaps the federation’s imperious attitude towards the athletes emanates from its paranoia and mistrust of the people, and fear that one day Oromo athletes might open Ethiopia’s Pandora’s box and spill the beans at an international sports event. Exactly what Lilesa did in Rio – and now he has not returned to Ethiopia.

At risk to his life, and at the sacrifice of his career, Lilesa was determined to express at the Olympics the collective grievances and institutional discrimination his people suffer in the Oromia region. The courageous crossing of his arms is a gesture of solidarity with the Oromo protest symbol that has been used over the last nine months in defiance of the ruling regime. In a short interview, Lelisa told what many believe is the story of the Oromo: the killings, the maimings, arbitrary detentions, profiling, enforced disappearances and economic injustices perpetrated by the Ethiopian government against the Oromo nation.

The current social and political crisis in Ethiopia was triggered by theAddis Ababa “master plan”, which was perceived by protesters as an attempt to remove the Oromo from the capital city. Even though it later dropped plans for this land grab, the regime claimed that its intention was to develop the city’s business district by further moving into the Oromo territories and neighbouring districts. No prior consultation, discussion or deliberation was had with the Oromo people, the ancestral owners of the land. Some saw this as being part of a grand scheme to ensure the long-term hegemony of the regime’s favoured ethnic group over the rest of the country. The Tigray, the regime’s dominant group, make up only 6% of the country’s population.

As Lilesa’s protest drew national attention, the situation in Ethiopia appeared to be deteriorating and having a serious impact on internal stability. It also cast a shadow of political uncertainty over the country.

Contemporary experiences teach us that economic and political inequality increases the risk of internal strife. When one ethnic group captures political power and excludes its perceived rivals, ethno-nationalist conflict is likely to increase, potentially descending into civil war. A heterogeneous society such as Ethiopia, where disparities in wealth overlap with ethnic grievances, is a good case study.

The scale of the Oromo protest over the last nine months has exposed Ethiopia’s ethnic-coded wealth distribution. According to Oxford University’s 2014Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), Ethiopia is the second poorest country in the world with about 58% living in acute destitution. Not all Ethiopians have benefited equally from the country’s economic growth.

The Oromia region, the nation’s agricultural breadbasket, is also the nation’s second poorest region in the federation. According to the 2014 MPI, about 90% of Oromo live in severe poverty and destitution, more than 80% of Oromo households do not have access to electricity or sanitation and more than 75% of Oromo do not have access to potable drinking water. Similarly, the UNDP’s 2014Human Development Index (HDI) placed Oromia well below the national average. Development in Ethiopia is not inclusive, not shared; many rural Ethiopians – the majority Oromo – remain in severe poverty. Oromo people are the most affected by the current drought and by the government’s response to it.

Economic inequality is echoed in the political realm. Amnesty International’s 2014 report, Because I am Oromo, chronicles targeting based on ethnic identity. Long before that, in June 2007, the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination had highlighted how Ethiopian military and police forces systematically targeted certain ethnic groups, in particular the Anuak and the Oromo peoples, and reported the summary executions, rape of women and girls, arbitrary detention, torture, humiliations and destruction of property and crops of members of those communities.

It is this marginalisation in the Oromia and Amhara regions that has forced the younger generation to protest in the streets, but the government response has been bloody. International human rights organisations report more than 500 lives were lost, but activists believe this figure could be more than 700. An estimated 20,000 or more people have been imprisoned, tens of thousands wounded and disappeared; many more rendered landless, homeless and jobless.

Now, with rallies taking place and with funerals in several corners of Oromia and Amhara lands, the conflict is likely to escalate and the country’s public security and stability to deteriorate. As reports continue to emerge, after several days of internet and social media blackout in the country, there is a growing fear that the regime has, knowingly or not, helped foment inter-ethnic conflict, pitting the Tigray against the Oromo and Amhara peoples. In fact, given the differences among ethnic groups, this could quickly descend into a large-scale conflict.

If there is any lesson the world can learn from Rwanda’s genocide, it is the pressing need to act as swiftly as possible to avoid this kind of worst-case scenario. Lilesa’s gesture is a request to the citizens of the world to stand with the Oromo in their quest for political and economic survival against the unjust face of Ethiopia. It is also a call for the western powers to re-evaluate their foreign policy towards Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa in the interests of real security, dignity, stability, peace and development for all the people – not a select few.

Related media articles:

Watch BBC  World Service News Hours: Ethiopian Olympic runner’s symbolic protest

 

Read at OAKLAND INSTITUTE: Feyisa Lilesa: Crossing the Line in Ethiopia

Read Untold Stories of the Silenced.



Read in Quartz: SELF-IMPOSED EXILE: The Ethiopian Olympic runner who defied his government has not returned home with the rest of his team

 

Read Yadesa Bojia: It is time to report the truth about Ethiopia!

Watch BBC  World Service News Hours: Ethiopian Olympic runner’s symbolic protest


Over $100,000 raised for Oromo Olympian, read at world Post

Read VOA: Ethiopian Diaspora Raises Over $100K to Help Protesting Olympic Athlete

Read NZ Herland: Ethiopian community to protest homeland government’s crackdown on political dissent.  “Feyisa Lilesa is our hero and we are calling on New Zealanders to join our protest, and urge the New Zealand Government to call on their Ethiopian counterparts to cease the senseless killings.”


Africa News: Streets deserted during renewed protests in some Ethiopian cities

 

NY Times video: Marathoner’s Symbol of Protest: #OromoProtests at #Rio2016 August 24, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomistHero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisaa.Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa at press conference. p1Columbia university students in solidarity with #OpromoProtests say the Oromo students deserve justice, 22nd August 2016The Olympian has taken the Oromo call for freedom and justice global. Go go the world


 

Fayyisaa Lalisaa (Feyisa Lilesa), an athlete from Oromia/  Ethiopia, caught the world’s attention Sunday 21 August 2016 when, at the finish line of the Olympic marathon, he raised his arms in solidarity with the Oromo people in his country. This is NY Times Video:-

 

Realted:-

Oromia: Athletic Nation Report: #Rio2016 Olympic Marathon: Oromo athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa has demonstrated his Solidarity to #OromoProtests as he wins silver medal. Oromian Economist August 21, 2016

 

Oromia: Athletic nation Report: Short poem (Rio) about Oromo Olympian Fayyisaa Lalisaa, the world icon of #OromoProtests (the call for social justice).                      Oromian Economist  August 23, 2016

 

SB Nation: Olympian Fayyisaa Lalisaa stood up to Ethopia’s state-sanctioned violence and became a national hero August 23, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa at press conference. p1Feyisa Lelisa Support Fund, #OromoProtests icon

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7 



Olympian Feyisa Lilesa stood up to Ethopia’s state-sanctioned violence and became a national hero

Fayyisaa lalisaa Oromo national hero, at Rio 2016 Olympicmarathon in the podium, finishing line in #OromoProtests as winning theOlympic medal, 21 August 2016

Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Why Lilesa’s simple act of making an “X” with his arms after winning an Olympic medal was a watershed moment for so many Ethiopian people.

 

After nabbing a silver medal in Olympic marathon, Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa hoisted his arms inches above his head in the form of an “X.”

With a seemingly innocuous gesture, the 150-pound black man was actually displaying a symbol of solidarity with the Oromo people of Ethiopia, who have protested the government’s reallocation of their land. At least 400 local protesters were killed by Ethiopian security forces over the last year, according to Human Rights Watch. The “X” symbol that Lilesa showed came into widespread use in Ethiopia four and half years ago by protesters as a mark of unarmed, civil resistance.

Following his demonstration, which he repeated on the medal stand, Lilesa toldreporters in Rio De Janeiro, “If I go back to Ethiopia, the government will kill me.” That’s the cost of protesting a government in Ethiopia that controls its media and stifles those who speak out against its will.

: to @ESATtv “many are dying and the regime must be removed by collective action”


After Lilesa’s protest, James Peterson, the Director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University spoke to many Ethiopians in America who felt galvanized by the gesture despite the ongoing human rights violations in their homeland.

“There are a lot of complicated things folks don’t understand about continental African politics,” Peterson said. “Addis (Ababa) as a city is sort of engaged in this moment of neoliberal straw. The city is trying to expand at the expense of these rural and suburban settlements that have been in place for like thousands of years. For an Ethiopian athlete, on the largest stage of any Ethiopian of the world right now at the Olympics, to be in solidarity with them, I don’t think it’s too much to say this is the equivalent of some of the most courageous, solidarity protests that we’ve seen in athletics.”

Olympians have long used the games as a stage to draw attention to national causes.Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a black power salute on the podium at the 1968 Summer Olympics during an American wave of Civil Rights. After Simone Manuel’s historic gold medal, she also spoke out about police brutality and black lives in America.

Such acts have caused the International Olympic Committee executive board to ban political or religious demonstrations in multiple ways in their Olympic Charter Rule 50and can result in the “disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned.”

Yet for Lilesa’s protest, his defiance of the Ethiopian government didn’t open up a new wave of Oromo activism. But it did demonstrate their current struggle for the world’s purview.

“Ethiopia has been praised as a poster child for peace and stability in the last 25 years. Western governments that continued financing this government, including the U.S. Government, have turned their eyes away,” Tsedale Lemma, the editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard, a monthly magazine focusing on Ethiopian current affairs from the country’s capital Addis Ababa, told SB Nation.

“To be able to tell this to the world, where everyone can see, on this stage was monumental,” she said. “It was telling the world to its face that this country, this poster child of peace, isn’t that way. It’s killing its own people. When everyone kept silent in the wake of this excessive killing, this young man (protested) at the great cost that he might not be able to come back to his country afterwards.”

Lemma’s magazine shares the same views as Lilesa. In January, it published a widely shared cover. Employees were intimidated and threatened, and the publication’s subscription numbers in Ethiopia have drastically declined for questioning the government.

#OromoProtests image, Addis Standard
The January 2016 cover of the Addis Standard, provided by Tsedale Lemma

Since the Ethiopian government announced plans in 2014 to expand the territory of the capital Addis Ababa, the country has been racked with protests resulting in hundreds of deaths at the hands of the government. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn wanted to further Addis Ababa’s territory into Oromia, where Lilesa lives.

Doing so would displace many of the Oromo people in Ethiopia who work on farmlands. It’s similar to American eminent domain, the right of the government or its agents to expropriate private property for public use. Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, accounting for nearly 40 percent of its population, according to a 2007 census.

Historically, the Oromo people have been marginalized by the government. Protests started in November; and though the government has dropped proposals to widen the capital in January, protests have continued, though, with citizens corralling for wider freedoms.

Local residents and Oromos between the United States and Ethiopia have claimed that thousands have also been jailed. Many incidents happened where the Oromo have gone to the streets and they almost always end in violence. They are killed. They are exiled or tried for treason. At best, the protestors just disappear from sight.

Within Ethiopia, Oromos mostly expressed their support for Lilesa on social media, Lemma said. Current government mandates do not tolerate people flooding the streets for celebration, particularly not for a man that flashed a symbol that is the nightmare for a regime in front of billions of people.

State-run media only showed a censored version of the marathon Lilesa won, and completely blocked his protest at the games. Some have refused to mention his name at all. But in the United States, where Ethiopians are the fifthlargest source of black immigrants, their ebullience was overflowing.

“Among his compatriots, including those in the diaspora, Lilesa’s protest was welcomed with tears of joy,” said Mohammed Ademo, the founder and editor of OPride.com that aggregates Oromo news. “A hero was born out of relative obscurity. A GoFundMe account was set up within hours. I have no doubt that it will be remembered as a watershed moment in the history of Oromo people.

“Kids will be named after him. Revolutionary songs and poems will be written in his honor. For a people who have been silenced for so long this is likely to embolden and generate more momentum for the budding movement in Ethiopia.”


The overwhelming thought is that the plight of the Oromo people, and Lilesa’s protest shedding light on it, are not what Ethiopia wants the world to know. It is an extremely censored country, where most newspapers and other outlets are either controlled or affiliated with the government.

One woman, who asked for anonymity to speak to SB Nation because she feared the consequences of speaking out against the Ethiopian regime for her and her family, said that when she last visited Ethiopia around the start of the protests, the government had blocked internet service and scrambled social media apps to stop people from collaborating by using them, a form of silencing dissent.

She said Lilesa’s feat exemplifies how fearful a lot of the Ethiopian diaspora is to speak out on this subject.

“(Lilesa) acknowledged the significance of this dialogue and that he may never walk the land he’s from or see his family again,” she said. “It was meaningful and it’s going to spur the type of international engagement that is necessary to challenge the Ethiopian government to recognize their faults and consider what a just government looks like.”

American media still largely ignores the African continent and most news organizations have dramatically cut their African bureaus or rely on one person to cover the entire continent. There’s more coverage generally on terrorism with direct implications for American national security, Ademo said.

There also hasn’t been much coverage of the Oromo protests. One reason is because Oromia has largely been off-limits to journalists since the protests began, and those who go to Ethiopia often face insurmountable hurdles for access, Ademo said.

Even Lilesa’s dominance as a marathoner is unique for Ethiopia. Ethnic Oromo athletes of all genders have often been erased from Ethiopian lore, yet they are the first black Africans to win Olympic gold, Ademo said. Abebe Bikila did so in the 1960s while running barefoot and Derartu Tulu followed in the 1992 and 2000 Olympics. Yet behind the scenes these same athletes faced implicit and explicit biases.

Few Oromo athletes spoke Amharic, a language of power in Ethiopia, and they were never sent with Oromo translators. They often had to operate by the doctrine of the country’s current rulers and the official Olympics body to compete, Ademo said.

Fayyisaa lalisaa Oromo national hero, After received his Rio 2016 Olympic medal, 21 August 2016
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Within Ethiopia, those who protest see these same issues at the micro level. Lemma described a phrase many have used to explain the discrimination and marginalization the Oromo face. Oromo have said “the prisons in Ethiopia speak Afaan Oromo,” the native language of the Oromo, which shows the disproportionate rate at which Oromo are jailed in Ethiopia.

Video this month, obtained by the Associated Press, showed Ethiopian security forces beating, kicking and dragging protestors during a demonstration in the capital as they cowered and fell to the ground.

This same fight to upend oppression in Ethiopia is one being done by current American black protestors at the height of a renewed wave of activism. Lilesa’s protest spoke to some on a bigger level. Because just like black lives, African lives also have value.

“Not even in just this particular incident, but the dominance of black athletes on the global stage is in a sense of protest, especially when you have representatives of countries under such oppression as Ethiopia and the black America,” said Kwame Rose, an activist from Baltimore most known for his stand-off with Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera after Freddie Grey’s death.

“What he did would get a lot of people killed in Ethiopia and could’ve gotten his medal stripped,” Rose continued. “This was the time to send a message, not only about competing as an athlete, but surviving as a human and trying to better humanity.”

The reality is that what Lilesa did might not change anything for the Oromo people, but his demonstration had much more validity than to be limited to just that notion.

Ademo said it provided a crucial show of inspiration for people being disproportionately jailed, that are unheard and have yearned for a change in their government.

“In the context of this long and tortuous history, Lilesa’s protest was revolutionary. Beyond the politics within the Ethiopian Olympics federation, his gesture brought much-needed attention to escalating human rights abuses in Ethiopia,” Ademo said.

Lilesa’s act was a moment to show the shackles of systemic oppression binding the Oromo people. He took their fight to the international stage.

Oromia: Athletic nation Report: Short poem (Rio) about Oromo Olympian Fayyisaa Lalisaa, the world icon of #OromoProtests (the call for social justice) August 23, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

 

 

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p7

 

 

Feyisa Lelisa Support Fund, #OromoProtests iconFeyisa Lelisa, Oromo Olympic Marathon silver medalist and #OromoProtests global icon and Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Rio 2016 Olympic Marathon Gold medallistOromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p6

 

 

Rio: Short Poem

 

 

 

 

And also watch …………….

BBC World News 23 August 2016  Fayyisaa Lalisaa

 

Athlete with a cause

Oromo athlete, Fayyisaa Lalisaa (Feyisa Lelisa), who finished 2nd and took Silver in  Rio 2016 Olympic in men’s Marathon, crossed the finishing line with his hands crossed, an iconic  sign of Oromo social resistance  (#OromoProtests) to injustices and tyranny in Ethiopia.  Rio Olympic Marathon was held on 21 August 2016 and its the final day of the Olympic Games.  Fayyee has made  an Olympic history on Olympic history.  made solidarity to  #OromoProtests in the podium and at medal and after press conference.

The Significance and importance of his  heroic solidarity is very understandable for those have  followed the #OromoProtests the last 2 years.

 

Oromia: Athletic Nation Reports: Crowdfunding campaign for #OromoProtests world icon, Rio 2016 Olympian, Fayyisaa Lalisaa has been exceeding the target. Dirmannan Goota Oromoo Fayyisaa Lalisaaf ta’aa jiru hamma abdatamee oli ta’aa jira.

 

 

The Independent News: Ethiopian state TV censors #Rio2016 Olympic marathon runner’s finishing line #OromoProtests

 

The Independent News: Ethiopian state TV censors #Rio2016 Olympic marathon runner’s finishing line #OromoProtests August 22, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Athletic nation, Fayyisaa Lalisaa.
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Ethiopia’s state-owned TV network has refused to broadcast footage of one of its most successful Olympic athletes crossing the finishing line or receiving his medal after he staged a political protest against oppression back home.

Feyisa Lilesa won silver in the men’s marathon on the last day of events in Rio, making him Ethiopia’s joint second most successful performer after the country won just one gold in a disappointing campaign.

As he crossed the line on Sunday he raised his arms to form an “X”, a symbol of defiance that has been used by the Oromo people in Ethiopia as part of political protests against the government.

Lilesa repeated the act in a press conference after the race, and said he would repeat it at the medal ceremony later. He told reporters he faced being killed for doing so if he returns home after the Games.

EBC, the Ethiopian state broadcaster, was showing Lila’s race live on TV on Sunday afternoon. As such, it was unable to avoid airing his protest as it happened the first time.

But the moment he crossed the line was cut from subsequent bulletins and, unlike with its other champions, EBC refused entirely to show footage of Lilesa being given his silver medal.

Shown Live on TV “-n marathoner Fayisa shows protest gesture after winning Silver at http://debirhan.com/?p=10275 

Photo published for Ethiopian marathoner Fayisa shows gesture after winning Silver at #Rio2016

Ethiopian marathoner Fayisa shows gesture after winning Silver at #Rio2016

On its website, EBC carried a report on the result entitled “Ethiopia wins Silver medal in men’s marathon”.

While its online reports from other Rio events tended to show pictures of victorious athletes after they had finished competing, the Lilesa article was accompanied by an image of a group of the marathon runners halfway through the race.

Neither online nor on TV did the state-run broadcaster make direct reference to Lilesa’s protest.

The athlete is from Oromia, home to many of the 35 million Oroma people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group. At the press conference, he said: “The Ethiopian government is killing my people, so I stand with all protests anywhere, as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”

Lilesa told reporters he would be killed or put in prison if he returned home, and said he feared for his wife and two children who are still in Ethiopia. He said he plans to try and stay in Brazil or make his way to the US.


Klick here to read more at Independent

Oromia: Athletic Nation Reports: Crowdfunding campaign for #OromoProtests world icon, Rio 2016 Olympian, Fayyisaa Lalisaa has been exceeding the target. Dirmannan Goota Oromoo Fayyisaa Lalisaaf ta’aa jiru hamma abdatamee oli ta’aa jira. August 22, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Athletic nation, Fayyisaa Lalisaa.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

Feyisa Lelisa Support Fund, #OromoProtests iconHero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa. p1

Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa as he speaking to media plHero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisaa.

Feyisa Lelisa, Oromo Olympic Marathon silver medalist and #OromoProtests global icon and Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Rio 2016 Olympic Marathon Gold medallist.

Feyisa Lelisa, Oromo Olympic Marathon silver medalist and #OromoProtests global icon and Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, Rio 2016 Olympic Marathon Gold medallist

 

Dhábasá W. Gemelal‪#‎OromoProtests‬-Mother and son stand together at different places but for common goal!! Oromia shall be free!! Freedom for all!!

Deessuu garaa qamadii, haadha gootaa.

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p5

 

Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global iconOromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. plOromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p2Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p3Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p4Oromo Olympic marathon athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa in the social and international media. #OrompProtests global icon. p6

Los Angeles Times@latimes 

 

Olympic Medalist Feyisa Lilesa Fears for His Life on Return to Ethiopia
The marathon runner made a symbolic protest against the government crackdown in Ethiopia

 

 

Olympic marathon runner Feyisa Lilesa ‘could be killed’ after protest against Ethiopian government

 

At the Olympic marathon finish line in Rio on Sunday, Feyisa Lilesa from Ethiopia staged a protest that he says could get him arrested or killed 


Ummati Oromoo bakka jiranitti gootummaa Fayyisaa Leellisaa sadarkaa addunyaatti dalage akka haaromsan ABOn dhaame.

ABOn tarkaanfii boonsaa Gootichi ilma Oromoo atileet Fayyisaa Leellisaa kaleessa Hagayya 21 2016 maaraatoonii olompikii Riotti gaggeeffame
irratti fudhate ilaalchisee ibsa baaseen “Fayyisaa Leellisaa: Ilma Ummatni Oromoo Itti Boonuu Qabu,” jedhe.

Itti dabaluunis, seenaa qabsoo Oromoo keessatti injifannoo olaanaa galmeessame kana dinqisiifatee, ummati Oromoo, keessayyuu atileetoti Oromoo marti qabsoo Oromootti xumura gochuuf bakka jiranitti tarkaanfii boonsaa walfakkaataa akka fudhatan waamicha godheera.

Kana malees, sabboonticha ilma Oromoo kana lammiileen Oromoo hiree itti qaban hundi isa cinaa hiriiruun gargaarsa barbaachisu hundaan akka bira dhaabbatan waamicha isaa dabarseera.  Guutuu isaa kan fulduree kana tuqa dubbisaa: ilma-ummatni-oromoo-itti-boonuu-qabu


Oromo athlete, Fayyisaa Lalisaa (Feyisa Lelisa), who finished 2nd and took Silver in  Rio 2016 Olympic in men’s Marathon, crossed the finishing line with his hands crossed, an iconic  sign of Oromo social resistance  (#OromoProtests) to injustices and tyranny in Ethiopia.  Rio Olympic Marathon was held on 21 August 2016 and its the final day of the Olympic Games.  Fayyee has made  an Olympic history on Olympic history.  made solidarity to  #OromoProtests in the podium and at medal and after press conference.

The Significance and importance of his  heroic solidarity is very understandable for those have  followed the #OromoProtests the last 2 years.

That is sign now widely recognized all over  Ethiopia as a symbol of civil resistance.  Ethiopia has been  gripped by successive anti-government protests which the recent one began in Nov. 2015 in Gincii  (Ginchi) town, Oromia state. 


BBC Africa Live ( 22 August 2016)  has reported the following:

Lilesa crossed his arms above – a gesture made by the Oromo people who have suffered brutal police crackdowns – as he finished the race. 

He now fears for his life and says he might be forced to move to another country. 

Organisers say that the fundraising drive had initially targeted $10,000 (£7,628) but it had been exceeded within an hour. 

They say they have since revised the target to $40,000 and have so far raised 33,000. 

The gesture has been made by the Oromo people

Lilesa is from Oromia, home to most of Ethiopia’s 35 million Oromo people.

He repeated the protest gesture later at a press conference.

 

 

Feyisa Lelisa Support Fund, #OromoProtests icon

 Click here to the link:

Feyisa Lelisa Support Fund

We are calling on all Ethiopians and human rights advocates to make contributions to funds needed to support Marathon athlete Feyisa Lelisa who exhibited extra-odrinary heroism by becoming an international symbol for #OromoProtests and Ethiopian Freedom Movement after winning a medal at the Rio de Janeiro
Olympic games today August 21, 2016.

Feyisa Lelisa faces persecution if he goes back to Ethiopia and he has decided to to seek assylum.  Funds are needed to support him and his family in the meantime,  Please donate whatever amount you can.  We assure you all the money collected will go to support this Oromo/Ethiopian hero.

Co-sponsered by Abdi Fite, Lalisaa Hikaa and Solomon Ungashe


 

 

Utuubaa sibilaa
Fayyee sanyi dhiiraa
Goota lammiin leellisuu
Akkuma Fayyee Garasuu
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQQwKHtw8YY&feature=youtu.be

 

Oromia: Athletic Nation Report: #Rio2016 Olympic Marathon: Oromo athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa has demonstrated his Solidarity to #OromoProtests as he wins silver medal August 21, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Athletic nation.
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Oromo athlete, Fayyisaa Lalisaa (Feyisa Lelisa), who finished 2nd and took Silver in  Rio 2016 Olympic in men’s Marathon, crossed the finishing line with his hands crossed, an iconic  sign of Oromo social resistance  (#OromoProtests) to injustices and tyranny in Ethiopia.  Rio Olympic Marathon was held on 21 August 2016 and its the final day of the Olympic Games.  Fayyee has made  an Olympic history on Olympic history.  made solidarity to  #OromoProtests in the podium and at medal and after press conference.

The Significance and importance of his  heroic solidarity is very understandable for those have  followed the #OromoProtests the last 2 years.

That is sign now widely recognized all over  Ethiopia as a symbol of civil resistance.  Ethiopia has been  gripped by successive anti-government protests which the recent one began in Nov. 2015 in Gincii  (Ginchi) town, Oromia state. 

The tyrannic and corrupt Ethiopian regime discriminates and conducts mass killings against Oromo people. Even under these harsh condition, 7 of  the 8 medals counted to Ethiopia in Rio Olympics are won by Oromo athletes. Click here to read AFRICA: Oromia: Athletic Nation Report: Oromo Runners in Ethiopia Say They Face Discrimination

 

Fayisa Lalisa brings silver at Rio Olympics and turns it into pure Gold by defiantly standing with his people and against the terrorist regime that is massacring people, Says Jawar Mohammad, analyst and Oromia Media Network (OMN) Director.

Various sources misspelled his name as Lilesa but the correct one is ‘Lalisa’ or ‘Lalisaa’ in Afaan Oromoo. Fayyisaa means the healer. Lalisaa means  (making) adorable, (giving) glory.

marathon runner who came on 2nd Lilesa just flashed the crossed hands sign as he crossed finish line. Emmanuel Igunza@EmmanuelIgunza BBC Africa Correspondent

Brave. Ethiopian silver medallist in the marathon makes crossed hands gesture of Barry Malone @malonebarry Online editor, Al Jazeera English

Feyisa Lilesa showing solidarity with protesters in Ethiopia #Marathon

Jabaa gaafa biyyaa! Hero Hero! Double Hero in #Rio2016 men’s Olympic Marathon & Oromummaa. Oromo athlete Fayyisaa #Lelisa. 

Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa. p1Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisaa.

Fayyisaa Lalisaa haadha warraafi ilmaan lama Itoophiyaadhaa akka qabuufi yoo gale ajjeefamuu ykn hidhamuu akka danda’u himee ta qabsoo ummata isaa cinaa dhaabbachuurraa akka sodaatee hin dhiisin hima, Chris Chavez gaazexeessaan Sport Illustrated! Ibsa agaazexeessitootaaf kenne irratti alaabaa Oromiyaa gonfoo harkaa godhateeti.

 

 

Athlete Fayyisaa Lalisaa (Marathon medalist at Rio Olympics  21 August 2016) is the first Oromo Olympian to publicly address the Oromo people cause to the world community, OMN news.

 

 

 

OMN: Injifannoo Atleetii Fayyisaa Lalisaa Ilaalchisee

Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa at press conference. p1

Hero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa as he speaking to mediaHero Hero, double hero in Olympic Marathon, Rio 2016 and Oromummaa. Oromo athlete. Fayyisaa Lelisa as he speaking to media pl

Fayyisaa Lelisaa speaks out against the Ethiopian government. His pose at the finish line was in protest of the killing of the Omoro people.
He told reporters that “in nine months, more than 1,000 people have died from government harm.”
Lalisa says that if he goes back to Ethiopia, they could kill him, they could put him in prison or keep him in the airport.
“If I go back to ‪#‎ETH‬, they will kill me.”
Fayisa Lalisa plans to protest at tonight’s closing ceremony when the marathoners get their medals. ‪#‎Rio2016‬.
He has a wife and 2 kids at home.
Background
Feyisa Lalisa is a male long-distance runner from Oromia. He became the youngest man to run under 2:06 hours when he set his personal best in the men’s marathon at the 2010 Rotterdam Marathon. He was born February 1, 1990 (age 26), in Jaldu, West Showa, Oromia, East Africa.

 

(Advocacy4Oromia) With the eyes of the world upon him, Oromo marathoner Feyisa Lalisa used the stage of Sunday’s Olympic marathon to daringly protest his own government back home.

Lalisa

As he neared the finish line and a silver medal, Lelisa raised his arms to form an “X.” The gesture is a peaceful protest made by the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and one that is facing a brutal response to widespread protests that began late last year.

Human Rights Watch estimated in June that 400 people have been killed and thousands more injured as the government attempted to stop the estimated 500 protests that the Oromo people staged to draw attention to systemic persecution by the government.

Lelisa is from Oromia, which is home to a large majority of the country’s 35 million Oromo. He didn’t back down from the protest after the race either, flashing the sign for cameras at a press conference and pledging to do it again during Sunday night’s closing ceremony.

Rule 50 of the Olympic charter bans political displays or protests, and the American duo of Tommie Smith and John Carlos was famously suspended by the USOC after the pair flashed the black power salute on the medal stand at the 1968 Summer Games.

Lelisa, however, has bigger things to worry about than the IOC response as such dissent puts his life in real danger if he returns to Ethiopia. He told reporters afterward that he would seek a visa to stay in Brazil or possibly come to the United States. He also said that his wife and two children are still back in Ethiopia.

Click here to read report on : Fascist Ethiopia’s regime has continued with mass killings of Oromo children, mass arrests and genocide against Oromo people.

 

Click on this and next  links as media reporting Fayyisaa Lelisa:-

Explaining his actions, Lilesa said: “The Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting and I support the protest as I am Oromo. click here for more at BBC.

Lilesa crossed the finish line with his wrists crossed high in the air as a protest. He also challenged the world community for supporting a killing regime in his country.

Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa repeated his protest on the podium.

 

 

Γιατί αυτή η χειρονομία μπορεί να κοστίσει τη ζωή του αργυρού ολυμπιονίκη Feyisa Lilesa;

Ethiopian runner in ‘Deaths’ protest

Feyisa Lilesa, a legbátrabb sportoló azolimpián

Nummer twee van marathon wil niet meer terug naar Ethiopië uit vrees voor zijn leven

 

JO 2016: Médaille d’argent sur le marathon, un Ethiopien défie son gouvernement sur le podium

 

The whole world should keep in mind that this is not the first time that athlete Feyisa Lelisa protested against all sorts of tyranny & the Ethiopian state sponsored terrorism on civilians. Another Oromo athlete Lelisa Desisa was one of the very few athletes who devoted his Boston Marathon Medal to the Boston terror victims on April 15, 2013, in the US. We hope that the US foreign Ministry also recognizes this fact about these brave Oromo athletes very well. Naf-tanan Gaadullo

Boston Marathon winner will donate medal to honor bombing victims