Arrest of a powerful politician hasn’t stopped Ethiopians’ protests against government
(africanopticscom)–Jawar Mohammed, the then activist, and now politician and media mogul, led the 2015-2018 Oromo protests that finally brought down the regime of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). But he has been put behind bars by the very government he, along with millions of Oromos, brought to power on charges of instigating conflicts following the assassination of Hachalu Hindessa, an Oromo singer and activist.
A well-versed, charismatic, and eloquent activist, Jawar organized “Qeerroos,” a word for young people in Oromo language, to protest the Addis Ababa Master Plan, a government project that would have expanded the capital city’s territories into the surrounding Oromia region. To this end, he effectively used social media particularly Facebook, Twitter, and mainstream news media such as Oromia Media Network to disseminate information about the protests to millions of Oromo Ethiopians both at home and abroad.
In August 2018, Jawar moved back to Ethiopia after Abiy Ahmed took power. Prime Minster Abiy and Lema Megersa, the then president of the Oromia region, and now minister of the Ministry of Defense, asked Jawar to help them with transitioning the country into democracy. Multiples sources indicate they even offered to give him a ministerial position if he agrees to be a member of their political party, but he declined the offer saying he would rather help them from outside.
Jawar Mohammed’s home coming was celebrated with a big ceremony attended by high government officials including President Lemma Megersa and Takele Uma, mayor of Addis Ababa City, at the Millennium Hall. He was received into the auditorium by tens of thousands of his cheering supporters. Some were seen wiping tears rolling down their face out of happiness and disbelief.
In his speech punctuated with rounds of applauses almost every minute, Jawar announced that he came back home to help the country to transition to democracy. He caught thousands in the hall and millions watching him live on TV by surprise at the end of his speech when he awarded Lema Megersa a laptop computer he said he was using to organize the protests.
However, the arrest of Jawar Mohammed hasn’t stopped the ongoing protest across Oromia. It just became another reason to continue their oppositions to the government. “Free Jawar and all Oromo political leaders” has made to the list of slogans protestors hold during rallies and post on their Facebook walls.
The protesters have now shifted to market and transportation boycott. Many fear that this will make the life tough for businesses and city dwellers. In the long term, it may even put the already weak economy of the country at risk.
There is no doubt that Jawar Mohammed is capable of posing a big challenge to the government. As astute politician with deep understanding of theories of social movements and someone who gained practical experiences over the years, he will sure shape the future of the Ethiopian politics. He is a change agent and a real hero for millions of his supporters.
Abiy Ahmed, whom many Ethiopians have hoped to transition the country into democracy, has suddenly found himself fighting with his own constituency in Oromia, the largest federal state in the country. Many political commentators are warning that the country may collapse unless the prime minister starts a serious dialogue with all political parties with the aim to address a century-old systemic problems.