Ethiopian Athlete Feyisa Lilesa returned to Ethiopia this morning after two years in exile. He was warmly received by Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister, Workeneh Gebeyehu, and Ahmed Shide, the new minister for Finance, up on arrival at Bole International Airport.
The charming presence of Derartu Tulu, two-time Olympic gold medalist and first African female to win Olympic, shining in traditional Ethiopian cloth with green, yellow and red, made the reception special. She is serving Ethiopian Athletics Federation as Vice-President along with another long-distance legend, Haile Gebreselassie, who is president. From Social media remarks, it seems that radical Oromo ethno-nationalists are outraged that she wore colours of Ethiopian flag- the very same colours that she hoisted when she was celebrating her Olympic gold medals in Barcelona and Sydney. They consider her action to be “lack of knowledge.”
The Federation recently called up on Feyisa to return home.
Feiya Lilesa made the 2016 Rio Olympic memorable not just for Ethiopia (and Ethiopians) but to the world as well. As he was crossing the finishing line, he raised his hand and made a crossing sign over his head to express his opposition to oppression in Ethiopia under Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) government, which made headlines the world over at the time.
He decided not to return to Ethiopia for fear of reprisal and sought political asylum in the United States where he was staying for the last two years.
In 2017, he picked Arizona to settle on grounds of its convenience for his career. And he has managed to win half marathon in Houston, among others.
However, in exile, he was probably seen more as an activist rather than an athlete as he was speaking out against repression in important events. He was even invited to European parliament along with opposition political leaders.
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation seem to have interest in Feyisa returning to his country for good and represent Ethiopia in international competitions again. It is unclear as to what his plans are.
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