Addis Ababa – Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has blamed the United States-based “dissenters” for being behind Olympic medallist Feyisa Lilesa’s protest at theRio de Janeiro Games, the Foreign Policy.com reported.
According to reports, Lilesa held his arms in an “X” as he crossed the finish line in protest against government’s crackdown on political dissent.
The marathon runner finished second in the final at the recent Olympic games in Rio, thus earning a silver medal for his country.
Demonstrations in Ethiopia began popping up in November 2015 in the Oromia region, which surrounded the capital. This was over a government plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa.
The region’s Oromo people feared their farmland would be seized, and though the authorities soon dropped the urban enlargement project and brutally suppressed the protests, they badly misjudged the anger it triggered.
The protests have since swept across other parts of Oromia, and more recently to the northern Amhara region, causing disquiet in the corridors of power of a key US ally and crucial partner in east Africa’s fight against terrorism.
Human rights investigations
The Chicago Tribune reported that critics of Ethiopia’s human rights investigations say the government was in a habit of deflating numbers in order to cover up abuses taking place at the hands of their security services.
Human Rights Watch’s death statistics have multiplied those of Ethiopian civil society groups such as Human Rights Council Ethiopia, a nongovernmental organisation that monitors human rights in the country, and those published in an official Ethiopia Human Rights Commission report presented to the country’s parliament.
However, despite all his, the Ethiopian parliament endorsed the commission’s findings, which determined that agitators seized upon the peaceful protests and used them as an opportunity to incite ethno-religious hatred.
Hailemariam, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly this week, reportedly said that he would never allow an outside investigation to take place when Ethiopia has its own institutions available, because to do so would be a “breach of sovereignty”.
Hailemariam said that the silver medallist was put up to the stunt by US-based opposition groups in order to protest the government’s crackdown on demonstrations and further fuel controversial secessionist movements at home and in neighbouring Eritrea.
“This is not the capacity of the man himself. It’s something which has been orchestrated by someone else from outside,” Hailemariam was quoted saying.