Exiled Ethiopian Olympic runner who protested against government returns home

Exiled Ethiopian Olympic runner who protested against government returns home

Exiled Ethiopian Olympic runner who protested against government returns home

Written by Reuters

22 Oct, 2018 | 4:10 pm

Reuters – A medal-winning Ethiopian Olympic runner, living in exile in the United States since making a protest gesture against government violence at the 2016 games, returned home on Sunday (October 21) following a series of reforms in the East African nation.

Feyisa Lilesa held his arms over his head, wrists crossed, as he finished second in the marathon in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a gesture used by protesters in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region during a period of unrest in 2015-2017. The unrest was originally triggered by protests over government’s development plan for the capital Addis Ababa, which critics said would lead to expropriation of farmland in the surrounding Oromiya region.

Hundreds were subsequently killed by security forces as the demonstrations evolved into rallies against perceived political and economic marginalisation of ethnic Oromos.

In April, the EPRDF coalition which has ruled the country since 1991, appointed Abiy Ahmed – a 42-year old ethnic Oromo – as prime minister. Abiy has pursued a reconciliation strategy, extending an olive branch to dissidents and rebel groups, although the changes have not stopped bouts of ethnically-charged violence.

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