Marthe van der Wolf
BRUSSELS — It is now one year since persistent, sometimes violent anti-government protests started in Ethiopia’s Oromia region. How much closer are the Oromos, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, to achieving their demands for more political freedom and economic inclusiveness? Opposition activists addressed members of the European Parliament this week in Brussels.
Olympic runner Feyisa Lilesa is the most famous supporter of the protests in his native Ethiopia. Feyisa, the silver medalist in this year’s men’s marathon in Rio, drew attention when he crossed his wrists at the finish line, a gesture to show solidarity with the protesters.
Feyisa, who now fears returning to Ethiopia, addressed members of the European Parliament one year after the start of the Oromo protests:
He said it will be disastrous if the current situation continues, adding that because all media is blocked in Ethiopia, he is using his visibility to get worldwide media attention by being a voice for his people.
Also at the European Parliament is Berhanu Nega, leader of the anti-government diaspora group Ginbot 7. He was sentenced to death in absentia and labeled a terrorist by the Ethiopian government for trying to overthrow the government.
Berhanu believes the next six months will show which direction Ethiopia is heading. He says international pressure is needed to prevent the current tension from escalating.
“My hope is that at least some of the friends of this regime to talk sense that the path to power through violence in Ethiopia is over. That there must be a way to find an alternative and this alternative, to some kind of a soft landing, must happen quickly before it is too late,” he said.
Demonstrations in the Oromia region started on November 12, 2015 in the town of Ginchi, about 80 kilometers west of Addis Ababa. Students and farmers protested a plan to enlarge the boundaries of the capital city.
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