Remember the opening photo of this article? It portrays the Ethiopian athlete Feyisa Lilesa who in 2016, at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, on the finish line of the marathon in which he came second, raised his hands and instead of waving them for victory, crossed them in the courageous gesture that refers to human rights violations in his country. It was a clear allusion to the many comrades who languished in prisons in his country, arrested by a regime that did not tolerate opposition.
Today Feyisa Lilesa should cheer. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn announced the release of all political prisoners and the closure of the notorious Maekelawi prison where many of them were imprisoned and to which, probably, the Ethiopian marathon runner referred.
Dessalegn made this announcement unexpectedly and motivated him with the need to foster internal political dialogue and the promotion of democracy. It is easier, however, that Dessalegn made this announcement on the basis of a political realism dictated by the insistence of protests and anti-government demonstrations in recent months.
In Ethiopia, since the expulsion of the dictator Mengistu, in 1991, Tigrins, a minority ethnic group, have been in power, but it was decisive in the liberation struggle that took place largely in the Tigrai, and then extended to the whole country until Addis Ababa. For about 25 years, the majority of the oromics are waiting to enter the rooms of power, at least as co-tenants. At the same time it also awaits the other ethnic group of the plateau, the Amhara.
Up to now, the government dominated by Tigrins has refused any concrete opening. The announcement of Dessalegn for now remains an announcement to be made.
On paper, Feyisa Lilesa – an oromo – could now return to her country. Immediately after his gesture he declared: “My relatives are in prison and as far as I’m concerned if I go back home, I risk my life. If I do not get killed, I could end up in jail “. In that notorious Maekelawi prison, in fact.
We are sure that Feyisa Lilesa will wait to better understand what this announcement means, if it really is a conversion of the regime, if the government really decides to open a real dialogue and if it decides to share power.
By Raffaele Masto – Good Morning Africaa