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Ethiopia’s Olympic protest athlete reunites with family, but still ‘restless’

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Ethiopia’s long distance athlete, Feyisa Lilesa, who became famous for making an anti-government gesture while participating in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games has finally been reunited with his family in the United States, where he is currently based after being granted asylum.

He won the silver medal in the men’s marathon in Rio 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.

He received his wife and two kids at the Miami International Airport. It was the first time meeting them since he left Ethiopia to Brazil – a period that stretched to seven months back. He remains concerned about injustices in Ethiopia and has promised to continue to ‘‘speak out.’‘

But in a statement he posted on Facebook, Lilesa said even though he was happy to meet his family, he still remained worried over the clampdown of his people by the government back home. He described the reunion as a ‘small personal victory’ but said he was still committed to the plight of several oppressed Oromos in Ethiopia.

‘‘But despite my physical safety here in the US and now a family reunion, the Ethiopian government’s ongoing abuse of the Oromo people gives me no rest. No one builds a family with the intention of going into exile. Instead to live in one’s own country and ensure familial continuity.

‘‘Unfortunately, exile, however dreadful, has become my fate and the fate of many Oromos. As I celebrate this small personal victory, I want to make sure that we don’t forget the plight of millions of Oromo and other Ethiopians who are still being killed, beaten, imprisoned, dispossessed and kept in poverty,’‘ his statement said.

Lilesa, was 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.’‘

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.

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.

Ethiopia is currently under a six-month state-of-emergency imposed last year to help quell anti-government protests in the Amhara and Oromia regions. The protests have led to mass arrests of political opposition and hundreds of people are said to have died in the security clampdown.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Abiy Ahmed wins the 2019 Nobel Peace Award

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for immersly efforts to end two decades of hostility with longtime enemy Eritrea.

Though Africa’s youngest leader still faces big challenges, he has in under two years in power begun political and economic reforms that promise a better life for many in impoverished Ethiopia and restored ties with Eritrea that had been frozen since a 1998-2000 border war.

“We are proud as a nation,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, hailing a “collective win for all Ethiopians, and a call to strengthen our resolve in making Ethiopia – the new horizon of hope – a prosperous nation for all.”

It said the prize was meant to recognize “all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.”

The Nobel Committee’s decision appeared designed to encourage the peace process, echoing the 1994 peace prize shared by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the 1993 award for moves towards reconciliation in South Africa, said Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

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