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Rio Olympics 2016: Ethiopian runner draws world’s gaze to protests at home

Feyisa Lilesa à l'arrivée du marathon des Jeux Olympiques le 21 août 2016. © Luca Bruno/AP/SIPA

After winning a silver medal in the men's marathon, Feyisa Lilesa declared support for an anti-government protest that has swept across the country.

Ethiopian long-distance runner Feyisa Lilesa made a rare display of defiance against the country’s ruling party on Sunday as he crossed the finish line of the men’s marathon on the final day of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

With the world looking on, Feyisa raised his arms above his head and crossed his wrists, which is a symbol of resistance in Ethiopia.

 

The Ethiopian government is killing my people

« The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere… I raised my hands to support with the Oromo protest », Feyisa told reporters, referring to his ethnic group, which is the most populous in the country.

Champion of freedom

After finishing the marathon in second place with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes and 54 seconds, he was heralded by Ethiopians around the world as a champion of freedom. Waves of protests are sweeping across Ethiopia as people from the country’s largest ethnic groups – the Oromo and Amhara – march against the Tigrayan dominated government.

Protesters say the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party, which holds every seat in parliament, is taking their land and unlawfully detaining demonstrators.

Read the full article at The Africa Report, a publication of Groupe Jeune Afrique.

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